Long ago, I read a science fiction short story about a society that was bounded by a huge, impenetrable wall. Nobody new what was beyond the wall, or even bothered to wonder. The village where they lived was the only “world” they knew.
Until, of course, one inquisitive person comes along and just *has *to know what’s beyond the wall. He manages to scale it and get to the top…
And here’s where my memory gets fuzzy. I seem to remember two different courses from that point. I don’t know if one is wrong, or if I actually read two different stories with the same premise. They are:
The wall is several feet thick. He drops down to the other side, and finds… I don’t remember! But I’m pretty sure he was screwed.
The top of the wall seems to stretch on and on forever, with no “other side” to find. So he walked and walked and walked, in a direction away from the village, until… I don’t remember the rest of this possibility, either. Perhaps he found himself back at the village and none the wiser?
Anyone recognize either of these stories? At the time, I remember thinking the ending was rather unsatisfying. But I was young and rather literal at the time; now that I’m older and perhaps more in tune with nuances, I’ll see the existential implications of it all.
The first is “Kingdoms of the Wall” by Robert Silverberg. It’s set on an alien world and the protagonists are aliens (although this isn’t made clear at first). The “wall” is a giant mountain range at the end of the village, and every few years the villagers send a delegation up to the top to pay homage to the gods. Naturally, the Wall is full of varied and bizarre cultures, and the “gods” aren’t exactly what they seem.
The second is a short story I must have read 25 years ago. I don’t remember the name, but it’s about a magical fantasy society with a giant wall around the whole known world. The inquisitive boy, who’s interested in technology rather than magic, decides to climb the wall. HE eventually puts together some sort of contraption, flies to the top… and finds that the world outside is a high-tech Earth of the future, and that they had built a wall around a community of magic users in order to protect them.
Third is “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman, which features a village with a wall running by it. On the other side are the realms of Faerie.