I fell so far and fast that my screams ripped from me. Never seen a thing like this: six walls of cloud, looking like a billion miles, a sunny day inside a tornado the size of earth. I whipped back, and then up, and then plunged down like a roller-coaster drop, pulled by winds with muscle, real muscle, let me tellyabuddy.
Sixteen years or something I fell.
I was sleeping when I hit. Woke up to a smacking wet sound as the web caught me, and let me fly on down a mile or so before slowly stretching me back up, like it was made for catching things like me. When it sprang back, I didn't fly up; I had caught on to a thick strand and was holding on like grim terror, and then I bounced a few times, feet flying up at the sky, gurgling out my little caught-strangled-flying-up-sound. Finally, rest.
I looked around for awhile, and then tried standing up. It took a little focus to get myself walking; sixteen years is a long time. I had to learn to hop from strand to strand, balancing, like I was a kid walking on the top of the monkey bars. I hopped and hopped, picking out a spot on the tornado cloud-wall and trying to keep my bearings from it.
Hours and hours - days? I saw a shape in the distance, lying down. Another faller, sleeping on a wide strand. As I bounded up, I saw that he was awake -- he lifted himself up to a sitting position and greeted me.
"Hell! A newby! I haven't seen someone new in a long time!"
"Hi -- name's Carty." "Ben Werden." He stood up, and we shook hands.
He called it the Death Filter, and said he'd been out on the web for a long, long, time, maybe a hundred years, but I couldn't believe that. because he talked like a techy-type.
He told me that most people just Went On In -- a spot in the wall, a coupla thousand miles away, where people tired of living on the Death Filter finally went to seek release. Ben wasn't ready; but just the other day, a women named Cessina had given up and headed for the Spot. Ben was mournful; he'd been lonely. My coming along was a boon to him, and we ended up talking for days -- months? -- about the Filter, and the Earth, and how much we missed Life. A couple of times I cried -- not used to it. Still scared.
At least I wasn't falling. I looked around - there were groups of people, here and there, some having made a place to be comfortable for a long time, even one fellow who'd managed to convince enough people headed for the Spot to give him an article or two of clothing -- he's made a little cloth island out of it, comfortable and solid, no danger of slipping through, which I had nightmares about, since below us the tornado-wall narrowed to a black nothing, and nobody wanted to fall down there. It looked Bad.
Ben headed for the Spot a few years later. I followed, dragging behind as we got closer -- like a punched hole in the air-wall, a quiet space where the tornado didn't touch. I could feel the pull. And I didn't want to stay in the Death Filter by myself; the thought was hard to take. So -- I went in with Ben.
Which brings us here.