They found a switch shortly after. Amidst the control panels and
wires and radiators and books and addresses, was a large, orange switch.
Or, not a switch exactly, but a rotary dial. A phone spinner, Wayside called it. He was the one who found it. He was quite pleased about it, as the others gathered and looked at it, and wondered what it did.
“Intake” it said. In bold, cacophonous letters. Drowned out by the spitting numbers around it, it seemed to be important. Yet, currently, it was at its minimum, turned all the way to the left and down.
“Well,” Cometh said. “We’re only gonna find out what it is by spinning it.”
Cometh put her hand on it, and the others stared at her with mixed fear and anticipation.
She wristed it up to half and immediately tore her hands to her head—the noise was deafening. It rose instantly, pouring into their every soul, tearing them apart, wrestling their minds from their bodies, shreaking the walls into splinters until she clawed a hand at the dial and smashed it down again.
“Wow, ok,” she said. “What the hell was that?”
“It seems to be an intake of the Noise.”
No one could rebut that.
“Wait—look up there,” From said.
They looked at the monitor he was pointing at. It showed the board.
It was filled. Or at least, the part of it the camera showed was. And it wasn’t before.
From went to the dial and twisted it, slightly this time. Being prepared, they weren’t as startled. But they were uneasy at what they saw. Just the little twist made the board take in a hundred new names. A hundred new objects. A hundred new people. He twisted it a little more and it went faster, a little more, faster.
He stopped, turned it all the way down again. And breathed.
“Looks like Glass was right. The board is related to the Noise.”
“But what is it?” Cometh said.
They looked around for Glass, and couldn’t see her. Maybe they
expected her to have the answer, maybe they expected her to connect the
clues they hadn’t yet. Maybe they just expected her to be smug.
But she wasn’t there.
Glass walked through a series of tunnels, further away than any of them had ever been, and hadn’t heard yet that Wayside had found a dial or a switch. She hadn’t seen the board grow or heard any of the rumours.
She had heard the Noise increase, though. And as it did, multiple times, Glass heard the direction of the sound more clearly, and began walking. There was another long tunnel, then a shaft, larger than anything they’d ever need, then a draft upwards, and up there, in the sky, was a hole, and outside, there was an outside indeed. A sky, clouds, dusty snow, wintery night.
Only visible in a hole, far away, as if above the Up Above, but there was an outside indeed. And it was calling to her—the noise was screaming at her.
It was windy and flickering and difficult to make sense of, but out there, raw as it came, she knew it was real.