Story Prompt: A technologically-advanced society living literally on top of a medieval one, and a valid justification for why the medieval one doesn’t shape up and get techy.
Tamoor’s story (573 words):
“Why have you come to us, Septus?”
Septus Solar looked up to see a man with eyes as white as bone staring back at him; his pupils were ten times larger than a volarian’s. Septus should not have been afraid, he was used to speaking before large crowds; he was after all the head instructor of the halls of history. He would address a crowd of 100 students every day but today he was the one who had come to learn.
“I wish to learn.”
“What do you wish to learn, Septus.”
Septus thought about the halls of history, bursting with towers upon towers of data, but hardly a septabyte dedicated to the digger civilization, although there was great controversy amongst the academics for the usage of that word and they were supposed to convene a conference in the next month to decide on the issue.
“About your civilization.”
“Ours is not a civilization, we have made sure of that.” replied the grand meister of the seventh circle.
Septus raised his head, he was surrounded by a group of seven men with bone-white eyes. Their faces were matted with dust and no wonder – they were miles below the surface, underneath the second great volarian empire. This place was entirely different from the world above where the grand volarian spire tore through the clouds, and the air was filled with the faintly mechanical buzzing of nanobots, reassembling to form new machines as they sensed the needs of their handlers, but now all he could hear was the faint sizzling of boiling water and hissing of steam escaping from a nearby pipe
“Why have you made sure of that, why use steam when you know we have better options, why live underground?”
The grand meister paused and looked at the men of the seventh circle , they nodded their heads.
“Come with us.”
He was led by the circle of seven across winding tunnels dimly lit with gas lamps. Septus felt like an interloper as he was led deeper and deeper into the bowels of the digger colony and as he turned a corner they opened into a large cavern. On the eastern side of the cave was a large wall made of several layers of varying colours. The whole place was lit by a series of glowing minerals that filled the cavern with a ghostly light. The grand meister pointed to the wall
“That is the reason. These are the layers of civilizations before you, before your so-called great volarian empire,” he pointed to the upper layer, “there was the glorious house of Konal, and before that,” he pointed below that , “the republic of Soman and before , and before..”
Septus looked closer he could see the remains of the old, the building materials of buried civilizations, one upon the other.
“The sons of aether , the great cosmic predators, they come when they see signs of threat , when they sense your signals into the fabric of space , they come and they will come again, and here we are , in our inglorious holes as your glorious civilizations fall one by one,” he said as he moved his finger from the top of the wall to the bottom
Septus Solar felt a cold sweat on his brow as he stood at the abyss of civilizations staring at the epitaphs of the past and the apparitions of the future.
My Story (595 words):
“Mistress.” The servant boy hesitated at the door of the hovel. “They’ve brought in another one.”
“Bring him in then boy, bring him in. What are you waiting for?”
The old crone felt her breath catch and her heart stop. Nonetheless, years of training kept her standing and she croaked out. “Bring him in.”
They carried in the inert man, a mere skeleton of how he was when he left her house six years ago. Behind him walked the witch, also gaunter than the old crone remembered, but as arrogant in her stride as ever. Oh how she rued the day her Fasih met this witch and was enticed into the Metsi’s sky-cities.
And now, her poor boy…she bent over the man, feeling his pulse, muttering incantations under her breath. There was always a small chance that a resistance on the part of the subject would stop the process… She tapped tendons and watched reactions. Nothing happened. He was gone.
With a groan, the old crone sank onto a nearby stool. She glared at the witch, and the witch glared right back.
“Well! For all your medieval healing magic? Why can’t you make him better?”
“His soul is gone, you stupid girl. That’s what comes of challenging the overlords. Even if you are granted access to their so-called technological havens. They suck out your soul.”
“Nonsense.” The woman gritted her teeth. “I have met with the Metsi on their recruitment drives in the Underworld, and lived among them in their city. They do not look like this. They do not look…” She hesitated. “…dead.”
“The Metsi are programmed from birth, stupid child. Were you taught nothing? To work and function in their soulless dead societies, to move and walk and talk as if alive even though they lack souls, they are programmed by the media that seeps in from their sensepieces. That’s how they seem to live and perform their mindless drudgery, made even more mindless by the use of so much technology.” The old crone spat out the last word.
The woman ran her fingers through her hair, tugged it, close now to wailing. “It’s not true. I will take him back to the Metsi doctors. He will be okay. They can fix him.”
The old crone jumped up from the stool and pointed a finger at her. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough? I told you both. I begged him not to go to their cities. But would you listen? No.
“Do you think we are fools that we live like this, two steps from the animals and in such harsh conditions? Do you think you’re the first to be attracted to the gloss and ease of the overlord’s lives! Soulless, soulless, that’s what they are. And that’s how we become if we stay there long enough.
There is nothing anyone can do for him now.”
The woman glared at her, then seemingly, as if exhausted of all energy, lapsed into an expressionless mode.
The old crone looked at her closely, then sighed. “Thank the Hetsa you are safe, witch. Women take longer to have their souls sucked from them, though you bear the marks of the Metsi now and can live neither here nor there. If you go back, you will become like him.” She pointed at the catatonic figure on the bed.
“And if you stay here, I will not let you live. You have taken my last son from me. Begone before I strip the skin from your bones.”
The young woman turned and stumbled from the hovel.
Some points: Both of us struggled with writing this story because the premise is more suited to a novella or a full length novel really, so getting all that explanation into 600 words is tough. Nonetheless both of us managed to, and both of us have used the same dialogue-by-the-underworld-person to explain the story. The results are quite different though.