Down In The Well

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“Gather round, then, and listen to my story,” said the old man. “This is an old story, and yet a new one. Unimportant, yet vitally important. As with any story, of course, this one has a name. And when I have told you my story, I will tell you its name. But I wonder if you might be able to guess what that name is before I divulge it? In any case, let us begin.”

“In the beginning – as with so many tales – there are only two possibilities: yes or no. There were once two groups of people, identical yet distinct. The first group of people languished at the bottom of a well, with walls of infinite height, and no matter how much they tried, they never could escape their confinement. This group was called the ‘Insiders’.”

“The second group, who had enjoyed all the good that life could offer them, dwelled atop the walls of the well, and were known as the Outsiders. The Outsiders would stand at the edge of the well, and look down at the Insiders with sneers, firm in their belief that they were naturally superior, and nothing could take away their unassailable right to rule.”

“But nothing exists which cannot eventually fall, and so it came to be that one day, the walls which had once stretched upwards into infinity began to crumble, and their height became merely finite. And on that day, one of the Insiders found themselves outside of the confining walls of the well.”

“The Outsiders reacted with shock and horror. Their once absolute authority was, for the first time, threatened! And so, they began to act in a manner they thought would prevent any more Insiders from rising out of the well, desperately clinging to scraps of power, wielding traditions and laws as a butcher wields a cleaver. But all their actions could not prevent the first Insider from rising.”

“And as the first rose, he sent back, down into the well the secrets of the Outsiders. Tools that permitted the Insiders to tunnel into the once-impassable walls of the well, and knowledge that allowed them to rise further and further, until a small group of the Insiders had escaped their confinement within the well.”

“The walls crumbled a little more each day, and ever more Insiders rose up to become Outsiders, though they never forgot their humble beginnings, and worked tirelessly to improve their fellow Insider’s chances at escaping the well.”

“And finally, one glorious day, the walls fell away entirely, and there were no more Insiders anymore. But the original Outsiders still clung to their power, hoarding it as a dragon hoards his gold, bound and determined that they would rule forever, regardless of how many Insiders escaped from the well. They passed laws intended to rebuild the walls, and force the Insiders back into the well.”

“But even as they attempted to consolidate their powers, the sons and daughters of Insider and Outsider alike looked at one another, and saw past their differences. In time, these children grew, and they married as their hearts dictated, rather than following their parent’s instructions. And in time, the two groups became so intermingled as to be indistinguishable from one another.”

“The power of the elder Outsiders faltered, and the new generation grew up rarely hearing of the difference between Insider and Outsider. And within a few generations, the terms fell by the wayside, their meanings lost in the mists of time. And still, the children of that first new generation married, and raised children. And in the end, the history of the Insiders and Outsiders was relegated to classes in schools, before passing from memory entirely, forgotten by all but the stuffiest of scholars, catalogued only in dusty old tomes, sequestered in the archives of various libraries.”

“Even the great statues, monuments to peace and equality between the two groups, fell into disrepair. Some were maintained, simply due to their visual appeal to the communities around them, but others crumbled, and were lost.”

The old storyteller leaned back in his chair, scratching his ragged beard with a slight smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. A small child, one from the village to the south, raised her hand.

“Yes, little one?”

“Sir, we still get taught about the Insiders and Outsiders. Why did you say they were forgotten?”

The old man laughed. “Simple, my dear. I said the differences had been forgotten because it is an old man’s hope. I was there when the First escaped the well, and I was there when the last of the walls lay broken in the dirt. I have lived through hatred and intolerance, and I merely hope that one day we will no longer even remember why we fought in the first place. This world is too beautiful to be tarnished by such hatred.”

Again, a child’s hand flew into the air. “Sir, you said this story had a name. What was it?”

The old man smiled at the children before him, each eager to learn a little more of their world’s history. Insider and Outsider children alike sat before him, the first to escape, waiting to hear his reply.

“Our world is Quanta, so the story is, naturally, the Tale of the Quantum Well. Always remember that in the beginning, there were only two possibilities. But now, the possibilities for each of us are as infinite as the walls of the well once were.”