Chapter 8

(The Abyss. The artificial crack in Lubrae, separating the desired from the undesired. A crevice devoid of all but a strand of concrete to connect the halves.)

(There, amongst the brush that conceals those approaching, I find them. Trembling, unsure of what would come next regardless of encouragement from Father. He seeks to ferry them into the city of Lubrae unnoticed, through the tunnels below. How he plans this, I do not know. But I do not intend to find out.)

(My emergence from the deep forest was not unexpected, or so my father claims. Mother is here. Clan-mother is too. I do not see many other familiar faces. They have been worn down. Beaten. Broken. In search of a forever home. I must give it to them. I must… )

(But they plead. They reminisce. They appeal. They claim to love. To care. Mother brushes my arm, touch designed to evoke my inner goodness, one I am supposed to have forgotten. She apologizes for my exile.)

(Then Father apologizes—for everything. For the furious example he set. For earlier inaction. He wants to do right. He wants our clan to live a comfortable life. I see sadness. I see truth. I see regret. Perhaps this is the way. Perhaps my time with The Regime has clouded my judgment.)

(And perhaps my tumble into this Abyssal chasm is the result of my own overwhelming catharsis.)

(Or perhaps it is the cost of naivete.)

(Their faces grow smaller as I plunge deeper, but I can still make out their expressions. No longer do any of them—the adults, the children—no longer do they show regret or pain or sorrow—)

(Their faces show relief.)