The next morning Dan woke excited. His mind launched into thinking about the Shaft, and how to get through the hatch, the moment he woke up. He was fairly sure he had dreamt about it too.
He didn’t wait for Heleer to wake up, but got out of bed. If the soulborgs really were watching – which he had always assumed they were – he wasn’t stupid enough to start examining the Shaft right in front of them. But he couldn’t just lie in bed. He was too excited. This could be it. This could be the day he got out.
By the time breakfast arrived however, Dan was beginning to realize that he couldn’t think of a way to get past a solid bolted hatch. He didn’t even know what it looked like or how strong it was. He wracked his brain all day, but nothing came to him. Nothing aside from just running at the hatch, and he doubted very much that would work. There wasn’t enough room in the Shaft anyway.
The Shaft. Dan didn’t even know how to get in it in the first place. He remembered how he had tried, and how he hadn’t even gotten close to moving the panel which hid it. That was the first thing he needed to figure out. How could he get into the Shaft? Then he could worry about the hatch.
It was time for bed again before he remembered Heleer. Of course! She was the one who had been in the Shaft. If anyone knew how to get in it, she might. Once they were in bed, Dan turned to her, found her hand, and asked her.
Heleer took a moment to reply. At length, she squeezed: “SR Units. Damage them, the soulborgs send someone through the Shaft.”
Dan was surprised. “How do you know that?” he squeezed.
“Happened,” Heleer replied. “SR got cracked, few moments later a soulborg arrived in the Shaft to repair.”
Dan had to control his excitement and think about how to word his next questions. “Did you get in the Shaft? Did you—”
“Dan,” Heleer suddenly said. She had spoken without squeezing, and the single word caught Dan off guard. “Stop. Stop thinking about this.” She paused, then took his hand and began talking very quickly, squeezing on every important word.
“I don’t want to leave; I don’t want you to either. We have everything we need; why can’t you be content?”
Content? How could he be content? However, Dan knew she hadn’t seen what he had. In fact, he realized he had never even told her that he had gotten out at all. She had never let him.
She wouldn’t understand unless he phrased it right.
“Because of you,” he finally squeezed back. “You are here; I know there is more out there. I know there is…” he paused, trying to find the right words. “There is something beyond.” He waved his free hand at the walls for emphasis. “I want to know what that is,” he squeezed. “To experience it.”
Heleer replied far too quickly. Dan realized she must have been playing this conversation through in her head all day long. She had been planning this for a while. “You don’t know what is out there,” she said, squeezing hurriedly. “I don’t either. But you know what you have.” She put her free hand behind his head, drawing his attention to her face. “Isn’t that enough?” she said aloud.
Dan had to think a moment before he replied. “Once,” he squeezed after a moment. He looked at her. He’d have to tell her at some point; it might as well be now. She wouldn’t like it, but he had to tell her. “Once,” he repeated, “but not anymore. I got out. Before you, one night I was rescued. I saw sky, felt sand, breathed air… I saw the world beyond.” Dan looked at her, trying to convey some of his fervor. It was difficult when the medium was nonsense and squeezing.
“I know there is more than I dreamed of. Once my life was enough, but not now. There is more to life than contentment. I know. I know there is potential, out there. I don’t know what, but I know I have to find out.” Dan found Heleer’s eyes, trying to tell her through his look how important this was to him. “I have to,” he repeated aloud.
Dan waited. How would Heleer react? He knew enough about her to know that anything having to do with beyond the walls would make her close off and stop talking.
It was hard to tell what Heleer was thinking. For the longest time she just sat there, looking at him. Emotions flickered across her face, each chasing the other and then reappearing. Dan tried to tell what they were: Disappointment? Frustration? Maybe. The most common one, however, was fear.
Fear? Fear of what? Why should Heleer be afraid? All Dan felt when he thought about getting out was excitement.
“Dan,” Heleer said aloud after a minute, and then stopped. She seemed to be considering what to say, or how to say it. She frowned.
After a moment of silence, she lay down and rolled onto her side, facing away from Dan. He doubted she had given up. Dan lay down as the lights clicked off. He hadn’t heard the end of this. He knew it. But as he lay there, looking at the ceiling, thoughts and ideas racing through his head, the only thing he felt was excitement. He felt close. Close to getting out, close to realizing exactly what was out there. He could almost feel it.