The Domes were built by the survivors of the Great War to enable the continuation of life on earth. They were large, air-tight, multi-level structures in which every square inch of space was utilized in the effort to support life. They were coated on the inside with a special sun-absorbent paint which made the domes extremely energy-efficient, but which also blocked out any sense of the outside world.
The Dome Dwellers had no regrets about that. The outside world was a place of horror, and it carried unimaginable threats to their existence. It represented far more than death to them, and they were quite willing to relinquish all reminders of their former life.
They adapted to life together in their Dome World. Protected from the dangerous levels of radioactivity on the outside, and surrounded by a safe and well-controlled atmosphere on the inside, they went about the business of surviving. The atmosphere was very well controlled.
Computers constantly monitored every facet of life in the domes. A highly trained cadre of Dome Guardians constantly monitored the computers, and quickly reacted to any difficulty reported on the screens.
This kind of stringent supervision was necessitated by the fact that life in the domes was a very delicately balanced affair—the slightest disruption could spell doom for everyone. All of the people had to carefully carry out their assigned tasks, and remain in their places, and obey the proclamations of the Guardians. They all understood the importance of doing what was expected of them.
After a few generations in this kind of environment, the people in the domes developed a very mechanistic mindset. They forgot about everything but the requirements of life in the domes. They went through the paces of living without ever lifting their eyes to see where they were going. They never wondered about anything; they never questioned the authority of the Guardians; they never complained or rejoiced. They simply survived, and gave their life to the maintenance of the domes which enabled their survival.
At least, almost everybody did. In one of the domes there was a girl who was different. Daphie White was driven by a strange compulsion to know things. It didn’t matter what. Anything. Everything.
Of course, it didn’t take her long to learn that questions were strictly forbidden in the domes, so she took her curiosity underground. She listened very closely to what was said, and left unsaid, about her.
And too, there was something in her background that nagged Daphie without end. Once, when her grandmother was still alive, Daphie had asked her about her name.
“What kind of name is ‘Daphie,’ Granny? Where did it come from?”
Daphie still remembered the distant look that came to her grandmother’s eyes, and the far-away, haunting sound to her voice when she replied, “I don’t know, child. Perhaps it came from the daffodils which covered the green hills before the War.”
The questions had poured from Daphie. “What are daffodils? What are green hills? What was it like before the War?” But she got nowhere. Granny quickly changed the subject and nothing more was said.
As she grew up, Daphie did her best to find out about daffodils, and green hills, and life on the planet before the War, but the information center in the dome had very little to offer in the matter. The androids which were responsible for her education were no help either, and the humans she consulted were either totally ignorant or too busy to be bothered. It was as though life before the domes had never existed. So, her questions remained unanswered in the backrooms of her mind.
But there were plenty of other questions in the front rooms. How many levels were there in the dome? Why didn’t people on one level ever mingle with the people on the other levels? Why did no one ever travel between the domes? Daphie was determined to get some answers.
And she began exploring her world. She would walk unnoticed behind the maintenance androids into the central shafts and follow them through the various levels of the dome. In that way she discovered the Computer Center, and watched the Guardians from behind a small air duct. She found the hydro-gardens, the solar generators, and the incinerator.
One day she decided to follow the shaft into the lowest level. She stepped out of the shaft and probed about in the semi-darkness for some sort of clue to the existence of it all. She found more than a clue.
She came up against a structure that was unlike anything she had ever encountered. It seemed to be a wall of some kind, but it was different from any of the other walls in her world. It had been covered with paint was very old, and had chipped and cracked in places.
Daphie got down on her hands and knees and scraped a large piece of paint. As she did, a strange kind of light shone through the opening. Her heart was racing with a mixture of fear and expectation as she leaned down to peer through the hole.
She was amazed and confounded at what she saw. She couldn’t make sense of any of it. She had never seen anything like it. Everything was so bright it hurt her eyes, and she had to squint through blurring tears. She was trying to bring it all into focus when she was yanked to her feet and whirled around.
“What are you doing here?” It was a Guardian.
The shock of her capture kept Daphie from making a sound. “Speak up!” demanded the Guardian. “Why are you on this level?”
Daphie shrugged and said nothing. “Very well, then,” said the Guardian, “come with me.”
“Wait!” said Daphie, “what is this?” She pointed to the wall.
“That is nothing that concerns you,” said the Guardian, pulling her away.
“No!” shouted Daphie, struggling in his grip. “It is too something that concerns me, and there is something on the other side—I saw it!”
“You’re wrong,” said the Guardian. “You saw nothing. There is nothing there.”
“There IS SO something there!” Daphie protested. “Look for yourself if you don’t believe me!”
The Guardian looked over his shoulder at the bright spot of light on the floor. Then he looked at Daphie. “I don’t see anything,” he said.
The Guardian forced Daphie with him to a room near the Computer Center where other Guardians sat in attendance. When they entered, one of the seated Guardians stood and spoke. “You are Daphie White,” he said. “We have had our eye on you for some time. You are getting to be a problem, and there is no room for problems here.”
“I haven’t done anything,” said Daphie. “You have no right to treat me like this.”
“You have done much, Daphie White,” said the Guardian. “Just now, you were caught at the base of the Dome. You were not on your level. This is a serious offense.”
“What are you afraid of?” asked Daphie. “What are you hiding? What do you want to keep me from finding out?”
“We must protect the Dome,” said the Guardian. “It is our task.” Then he asked, “What did you see?”
“I don’t know,” said Daphie. “It was too bright. But I saw something. I saw something outside the Dome.”
“No,” said the Guardian. “You are wrong. There is nothing outside the Dome. There is nothing besides the Dome. The Dome is all there is. The Dome is everything. We live in the Dome, and care for the Dome, and the Dome cares for us. The Dome gives us life and protects us throughout our lives. We serve the Dome and the Dome serves us. That is how it is and how it must always be.”
“That’s not right!” shouted Daphie. “There is something else! I saw it! I know!”
“There is nothing else,” said the Guardian. “There is nothing beyond the Dome. In the Dome there is life, apart from the Dome there is only death. And it is heresy to suggest otherwise.”
“But I know what I saw!” Daphie insisted. “Come with me and I will show you!”
“There is nothing to see,” said the Guardian. “And you must forget what you think you saw. The security of the Dome depends upon your being silent.”
“I will not forget,” said Daphie, “and I will not be silent!”
“Then we have no choice,” said the Guardian. And, before she could move, Daphie was securely pinned between two Guardians and injected with a drug that produced instantaneous unconsciousness. She was carried to an ejection chute which carried her through the various levels and deposited her through an air lock on the outside of the Dome.
“That’s too bad,” said on of the Guardians as they walked away from the chute, “do you think her parents will be much of a problem.”
“No,” came the reply, “They are good Dwellers. They will understand. Her poison could have infected the entire Dome, and the Dome must be served.”
“Yes,” said the first Guardian. “The Dome demands that those like her die for the sake of the Dome.”
Outside, Daphie slowly regained consciousness with the help of a damp cloth applied to her face. She opened her eyes, but quickly closed them and covered them with her hands.
“Don’t worry,” said a soft voice. “You’ll get used to sunlight soon.”
Then, other hands helped Daphie to her feet and led her through waving daffodils to the village in the green valley below.