There was a time that I didn’t exert so much energy thinking about what the ground is made of. When I was little, I knew for sure I was standing on grass. I could feel the blades prickle my feet as I daydreamed. The building blocks that sprawled out of the living room past the threshold of our home nestled in the wild. The frontier, untamed yet malleable. If I was in the house, I stood on wood floors. They were warm and honest. Tightly packed together stitched into a perfect box around me. Nothing comprehensible beyond the indelible existence of the surface. It felt like I was closer to the sky than the street below. I looked up to a forest of concrete perforated by lights shimmering with activity.
The idea that the inside surface had an outside dawned on me a bit late. Primary school was multiple floors- each year moved us a little higher up. That was the first time I actually had a reference for what I was standing on. The floors were thin, a trait imperceptible from vision alone. Sounds of pencils falling and chairs scraping across the vinyl flooring reverberated through the deck above. The floor below was indeterminable. Without the steady march of footsteps it was hard to imagine where it set in space. I would contemplate it for a moment at the beginning of the year as I compared the new to the old location. As the year continued, the floor beneath would fall away from collective memory as our conversations shifted toward the observable.
Work caused the first conflict of ground. Up until then it was linear- I was in one spot, observing from a single point of view. An atrium opened up- lined with lush decorations as I looked out, details fading as I cast my gaze down. I had no real necessity for leaving my office during the day- most likely by design. There were plenty of ways to find myself occupied and lost in the nuances. Trips to the factory floors were abbreviated to the best of my ability. I remember idly supervising from the mezzanine as the workers like ants fulfilled simple tasks. Unaware and unconcerned by the silent observer a few stories above. Things had worked quite flawlessly as everyone’s tasks were confined to their own objectives alone. I remember getting reports every so often where the numbers didn’t balance out. Protocol told me to flag it and move on to finding more balance issues. The concept of resources had been abstracted to digits, creating a nice chasm between “knowing” and understanding. Most certainly by design, constantly one variable short of a solution.
Curiosity overtook my appetite for the next batch of tasks. I compared two separate reports, searching for a control variable. Meeting dead ends within the confines of my room, I ventured down. I passed through a variety of thresholds in search of my answer, each one greeting me with increasingly stale air and a steady dissipation of decoration. It was nearly seamless the way the concrete corridors graded perfectly into steel mechanical support spaces, faithfully feeding the behemoth now above me. I had tripped down the last step, expecting another. The stairwell deposited me into a space with machines and a warm glow. Safety tape indicating less than desireable placement of the massive equipment coming from below. Was I really on the ground floor? My answer rested on the floor, with handles lapping over the metal casing. The opening emitted a soft light, luring me closer. I travelled much further down than I had anticipated, watching drills and anchors pass as I descended. A cavern opened up. The anchors dominated an elaborately organized series of cells and veins. The tubes from above tapped into these squirming walls, pulling heat and god knows what up to power our grid. I stood there as a dozen men shifted the tubes over to a brightly glowing organ. My ground vanished into the walls of the host, so kindly supplying our city with energy.
This new ground was organic, I could feel uncertainty with each step. I had always stood on a metal ground, whether it was decorated with wood or grass- the deck was always keeping it steady. The steel became security and safety, sheltering me from an unfortunate relationship with a world I knew nothing about. Through the gates of ribs down a hall lined with pores, an aperture gleamed with the familiar alloy. The aperture was forged open by a metal porthole, hastily fashioned to a general shape of the opening cut in the exoskeleton. Beyond it I saw a new ground. I climbed down from the hermetically sealed parasite, scraping my hands on the way down. The husks of giant organisms scattered across an open field. I sunk into each step as my shoes displaced the dirt below.