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November 26, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom

ABYSSAL CIVILIZATION

The Smog takes up the first 2-10 miles under the Crown. When the pit opens, traders from villages that border along the smoky sections, known as the Tabagie, race up through the Abyss to seek out trade. People determined to escape the pit also tend to congregate as close to the edge of the smoky wasteland as they can, waiting for an opportunity to escape. At first, only the poor and disadvantaged would brave living close to the toxic fumes of the Smog, those who had no other choice. But over the years the Tabagie have found ways to adapt to the Smog, and though they’re the first to suffer any disasters that might ensue when the Crown opens, they also have first access to any available riches.

Most people live on ledges or in caves, but there are also “hanging cities.” The hanging cities are houses hung from chains attached to steel supports that are secured to the pit walls.

Other examples of human and alien ingenuity are prevalent, from rope bridges to more permanent stone structures.

Some people go the cliff swallow model and build vertically. Certain alien creatures build very large nests, which humans then drive out and take over, like starlings do. Vines that grow up and down the pit walls can be harvested or trained to construct natural bridges, but any bridge has to take the Sunstrip into account.

The nature of the space makes agriculture difficult, but where there’s a will there’s a way, so various people have cooked up ways to grow crops, from vertical gardens to cave-dwelling hydroponics lit by some kind of UV-emitting bioluminescent life form. Herds of animals are hard to keep, but not unheard of (no pun intended). Still, most meat is gathered by hunting.

There is no empire, or other Abyss-spanning political body. But that doesn’t mean that our people live in entirely primitive tribes. All manner of political experiments are being run in various far-flung communities. And people don’t just bring the high-level stuff (race, creed, religion) into the Abyss with them, but all the mundane stuff, good and bad, as well. They fall in love, sometimes tragically. They bring in prejudices. They’re bipolar or outright schizophrenic. They have cancer, heart problems, diabetes, and so on. They’re racist, sexist, or homophobic. They’re judgmental, puritanical, or hedonistic. There are drunks and drug addicts, natural leaders and outcasts.

And maybe most important of all: There are people who only recently arrived and are still trying to sort out what’s going on, and then there are Nth generation Abyssals: people born and raised in the Fathomless Abyss, who have never actually seen “the Outside.” The farther removed you are from the ancestor who first climbed or fell into the pit, the more Abyssal you are. For every person desperate to escape, there’s a person who couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

And when people die, their bodies are dropped into the Abyss or floated out on a hot air funeral basket when the Crown is open. Sometimes they’re ground up for fertilizer or cremated. Variety is the spice of death as much as it is the spice of life!

 

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