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They walked through a field to reach the woods in the early morning hours, when the animals were just waking and the ground was drying off from its dewy shower. He carried an ax, and his son pushed a wheelbarrow bigger than himself.
“Dad, why do we have to do this now?”
“You don’t wanna be cold, do you?”
“I can deal with it, if it means not chopping wood.”
“Well, that’s pretty selfish thinking when you have a baby sister at home.”
The boy grumbled and pressed on with his father. As they reached the edge of the woods, they came across a black pipe sticking out of the ground. It was about a meter tall and several inches in diameter.
“Dad, what are those pipes?”
“I’ve told you to ignore them, Teeko. That’s not ignoring them.”
His father always gave him the same answer about the pipes, but it always made his curiosity stronger than ever. As they passed the pipe, a light suddenly poured out of it.
“Dad, look! Look!”
His father saw the light and immediately grabbed his son and covered his mouth.
“Quiet,” he whispered. “Stay still.”
A voice came from the pipe.
“Who goes there?”
“Just a land dweller, sir.”
“You’re too loud!”
“Yes, sir. Our apologies, sir.”
“Keep it down!”
The light went off, and he released his son. They quietly slunk away. Once they had retreated a safe distance, his father spoke.
“The pipes provide air for homes, sometimes entire cities, underground.”
“Why don’t we see them?”
“They don’t want to be seen. They are those who have forsaken the land. They have left it to die, after their ways destroyed it. They retreated underground a century ago.”
“Why didn’t we go, too?”
“Because our people still believe in the land. We believe it’s worth saving. But those who live underground have the power to destroy us the same as they did the world. Do you understand this story?”
“I think so,” Teeko said, still processing his astonishment.
“Good. Now, it’s vital that you never speak to them unless spoken to. Ever. And always be polite. Got it?”
While chopping wood that day, Teeko couldn’t help but think there must be at least one he could talk to…
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