We take it for granted that we have a sound understanding of how the world works. Even the smallest human child knows about submission and dominance. We all know that the world works on survival of the fittest (or most cunning). But there are others out there, in the vast array of space and time, who are no longer so sure of the rules. They live in worlds without struggle or change or challenge. Technology has turned them into lazy, listless masses, with no reason to try. But change beyond simple updates is a necessary part of life and without it, a world dies. Life needs variety. This was something that The Directors (as called by The Cave’s inhabitants) were forced to learn the hard way. They were fading off the face of existence and something needed to happen.
At first, they tried to remember. They tried to relearn the art of living. It was a revolutionary step. But they weren’t used to such excitement and their civilization crashed. Accepting their own failure, they pulled themselves back to the way they were, figuring that existence was better than nothing. But something inside them had indeed changed. There was a hunger present that wasn’t there before. Some tried to ignore it. Others did their best to squash it. But some, some could not help but be grabbed by the throat and shaken by the possibility of change.
Their civilization divided into two groups: one that felt it proper to stay contented zombies forever and those made restless by the prospect of change. Those for the revival of their society grew in numbers. To stifle their voices, those wanting to stay the same made a compromise. They suggested an experiment. Their race would take others from many different periods in space and time and put them together on an island near the planet’s equator. The hope was that this radical group would see how much struggle and death came as a result of change, and abandon their desire for it. From this experiment, The Cave was born.
At first, there were only a few individuals brought and, although their mental health was next to nigh, they were surviving quite easily. Those among The Directors who wanted change saw this as a positive sign. Things had to be taken to a whole new level. To silence the ones barking for change, The Directors brought more people to the island from more and more diverse backgrounds. The more subjects they brought, the harder it got to survive there and the more their own people began to enjoy The Cave’s presence. It evolved from proof that change was possible, even plausible to pure entertainment. Many got the excitement they needed simply from observing those souls trapped on the island.
Over time, The Cave turned from research site to reality TV show. It got especially exciting when the subjects started escaping. There were those with powers, birds, anything with a capability of flight, and all of them were simply taking off. It was hot news back on the mainland. To think that those savages could actually reach them and create a real change… As a result, most of the escapees were returned to their worlds, exactly as they had left. Some were put back in The Cave and they told the others of those who’d “Vanished into thin air.” It was assumed by the inhabitants then that escape meant something more than just more food. It meant returning to your home or death, but even death was better. Still, no more were allowed to escape.
To prevent any escape, an energy net was put over the entire island, making escape, even by flight, impossible (or very nearly so). There is only one way to get around this force field: swimming. The force field does not extend to the bottom of the ocean that surrounds the island, merely ten or so feet below the surface. To this day, any resident who manages to surpass this field is sent back to their time and place, as though their stay in The Cave had been nothing but a dream. The Directors don’t want to put them back in the caves for fear they will tell the rest and an entire island of misfit cave dwellers will swarm to the mainland.
No one knows the secret anymore. Escapes are made on accident these days. The ocean is guarded by vicious water predators who are drawn to island by the possibility of easy prey and discarded corpses. Inhabitants who are so lucky to discover the way out are almost always eaten before they reach the freedom. Any who reach the top of the island quickly discover much better resources, but not escape. It usually discourages them from ever trying again. Most of the veteran inhabitants are satisfied with living in their groups and keeping their bodies going. Ironically, they are becoming more like The Directors with each passing year.
But The Directors still watch them with plenty of interest. What’s better than watching reruns? Oh yeah, watching death over and over and over again.