Thousands of them have lived underground. They've lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside.
Or you'll get what you wish for.
- Holston - Sheriff
- Allison - Wife of Holston, deceased
- Deputy Marnes - Deputy to Sheriff Holston
- Mayor Jahns - Mayor
- Nelson - Head of Cleaning Lab, helps Holston into his suit
Each life might wear away a single layer, even as the silo wore away that life.
What would they see, anyone who had chosen to watch?
It hadn't been for a lack of trying; it had been a lack of time. A sudden lack of wife.
Tell her I want to go outside.
My life is too tight, he wanted to say. My skin is too tight. The walls are too tight.
I want to go out. I want to go out. Iwanttogoout.
Wool begins with Holston climbing the silo stairs. As Holston climbs, he contemplates the permanence of the silo, and examines its withering features. He recalls better times with his wife, Allison. In particular, Holston recalls winning the lottery, and thus winning the right to have children. He recalls their dreams of having twins, and their various superstitious attempts at bringing about those dreams.
As Holston thinks about the lottery, he thinks about why they didn't end up having children, Allison died before they were able to conceive. As he passes the viewing room and looks at the screen that shows the outside world, Holston can see his wife's corpse, lying on a hill "like a sleeping boulder."
Holston reaches the top of the silo, and runs into Deputy Marnes, who immediately question's if Holston is feeling well. Holston requests to be taken to the holding cell, then asks for Marnes to get the mayor. Holston then simply states, "tell her I want to go out."
Holston sits in the holding cell and contemplates the less blurry image on the viewing screen. He considers the plight of the cleaners, who are sent out to clean the cameras, and wonders if perhaps they clean the camera for the holding cell more carefully than the rest.
As he sits in the cell, his thoughts return to his wife, and he questions if the display he is looking at is an accurate reflection of the real world outside, or just an illusion. Mayor Jahns then visits the holding cell. They discuss the fact that the view is clearer in the holding cell, and Jahns offers Holston his last meal. Holston mentions to Jahns that he understands the process, the he served Allison her last meal in that very cell 3 years earlier. Holston and Jahns discuss the fact that Jahns doesn't like the fact that Holston is being sent out to clean, but that those are the rules, and Holston must follow the rules. He broke the law by discussing the outside, and now he must go outside to clean the cameras.
During their conversation, Jahns wonders why Holston hasn't threatened to not go through with the cleaning. According to Jahns, most cleaners say they won't clean and the fact that Holston hasn't suggested that possibility is concerning to the population of the silo. The chapter concludes with Holston contemplating the fact that everyone who has been sent out to clean, has actually carried through with the cleaning. When Jahns asks if Holston will go through with the cleaning, he replies, "Everyone does it. There must be some reason, right?"
3 Years Previous - Allison discovers that there was more than one uprising by piecing together old documents that she uncovered through a software program that she created that recovers deleted files. She begins to suspect that the servers weren't wiped out by the uprising as they initially thought. As she researches the fact that the servers have been wiped several times, she develops the hypothesis that they weren't destroyed in the uprisings, but that their ancestors wiped the silos on purpose to cover some piece of information.
Allison notes that for a period of just about 100 years there were regular revolts, spaced about 20 years apart. The last of these is referred to as the great uprising, and there has not been one since. Holston suggests that the servers were wiped to prevent another uprising. Allison suggests they were wiped to cover up whatever piece of information kept causing the uprisings.
Present Time - Holston is sitting in the air lock, being fitted into his cleaning suit. Nelson explains that the suit has been improved, and that Holston should have more time on the outside than anyone has in the past. As Holston is being told this, his thoughts shift to Allison, and he recalls her cleaning, before walking off toward the hill where she was overcome by the toxic atmosphere.
Nelson explains the cleaning process to Holston as Holston recalls the men he's sent to cleaning in the past. After being fitted into his suit, Nelson explains the procedure to Holston. Holston is outfitted with scrubbers (wool pads stuck to the front of the suit). First he must squirt two squirts from the cleaning bottle, then scrub with the wool, then dry with a towel, and last put on the ablating films. The conversation ends when Nelson asks Holston if he's okay. Holston responds, "I'm ready."
3 Years Previous - Holston runs to the cafeteria to discover that Allison is screaming that she wants to go out. He tries to calm her, but it's of no use. He tries to get her to stop saying that she wants to go out, but he knows that it's too late. He takes her to the holding cell, and locks her there. Holston tries to get Allison to talk to him, to explain why she's doing what she's doing, but she ignores him. Holston stays with Allison, and she finally tells him that nothing he sees is real, that they have been lied to about the outside.
Allison has discovered the programs used to make pictures on the screens that can appear to be so real as to be completely convincing. She blames IT. Allison tells Holston that she knows the truth, and that she's leaving but she'll come back for him, and together they'll break the cycle. Allison states that all of the uprisings came about through doubt. She tells Holston that she erased everything she found, that she doesn't want to be the cause of another great uprising, that she's only coming back for Holston.
Present Time - Holston is standing in the airlock. The airlock fills with argon gas to keep the toxic fumes out. Holston knows that he must exit quickly, to avoid being burned by the torches that clean the air in the airlock once it has been opened.
The doors open and Holston exits, as he walks up the concrete ramp, he discovers that Allison was right. Everything he'd been told is a lie, the world is not toxic, he sees blue sky and green vegetation everywhere around him. Shortly after seeing this, he understands why everyone cleans, and sets out to clean the cameras. He sees the cameras and antennas sticking out of the top of the silo. Holston cleans the cameras as he anticipates meeting his wife again.
Once he is done completing the cleaning, he walks toward the city he sees in the distance. He makes the conscious decision to keep his helmet on and to calmly walk away, in order to maintain the appearance that is expected by those in the silo.
As Holston walks up the hill, he begins to cramp. Holston's vision blurs and he sees several bright flashes of white in his visor before it becomes dark. Holston realizes that he is not blind, his visor has gone black, and he's asphyxiating in his own exhaled breath. Holston pries off his helmet with a sharp rock. He removes his helmet and realizes that his visor had been projecting a false image. The world is toxic, and brown, and he is quickly overcome.
Holston discovers his wife's body, curls up with her, and resigns himself to death, wondering if anyone in the silo had chosen to watch.