Plato's Allegory of the Cave told in two stories through an illustrated alphabet.
Sombra is an Allegorian. Allegorians live deep within the earth in a never-ending network of caves.
Sol is a Hemelite. The Hemelite tribe flies above the earth in magnificent balloons.
Allegorians have everything they need beneath the earth. They have no reason to leave their caves, and so they never do.
Hemelites are nomadic. They travel the earth, seeking new knowledge.
The Allegorians often see strange shadows cast on the ground of their caves. They give these shadows names, but never look to see what it is that casts them.
On a Hemelite’s 16th birthday, it is tradition for her to travel the world on a quest of discovery and self-discovery.
While the rest of Sombra’s tribe is alright making up names for the shadows they do not understand, Sombra needs something more.
With 16 years behind her, Sol sets off in her little balloon. She floats past the forests of her childhood.
Sombra makes his way through the caves, always choosing the path that goes up. He doesn’t know why, but somehow he feels this is where he will find answers.
The landscape changes, and Sol recognizes less and less.
The path is long and winding, but Sombra’s curiosity drives him forward.
After weeks in the air, Sol sees a strange canyon. She wonders about the mysteries within.
Sol floats into the darkness, wondering if any of her people have explored these caves before her.
At last, Sombra sees something new. Light! His eyes slowly adjust as he climbs upward.
Sol studies the landscape beneath her. It becomes more and more alien.
At last Sombra emerges fully emerges from the caves. He looks around him – there are so many new sights to see!
At last, Sol sees a place to land her balloon. She lowers herself onto a strange island and follows the path.
Sombra follows the path from his cave. He walks without expectation, but not without purpose.
The path twists and turns as Sol follows it deeper and deeper.
Sombra sees the balloons of the Hemelites floating by and decides to follow them.
Sol begins to notice human-made structures, and wonders who lives in this deep, dark place.
Sombra follows the balloons over mountains and through valleys.
As Sol walks she hears voices, but sees no one.
At last, Sombra’s path converges with the strange tribe of balloon-flying folk.
At last, Sol meets the Allegorians. She greets them with excitement. They arrest her without question.
The Hemelites listen to Sombra's stories. They welcome him to their tribe. They give him his own balloon.
The Allegorians lead Sol deeper and deeper. She takes a last glimpse up to the sky above the caves and sees her people floating overhead.
From his balloon, Sombra can see the many curiosities of the landscape, and how when touched by light, they make shadow.
Sol tries to tell her story, but nobody listens. They only lead her deeper and deeper into the caves.
Sombra learns about so much more than just shadows. He learns about reflections.
The guards escort Sol deeper into the caves. She sees fewer and fewer people, and as the light fades, Sol loses all hope.
Sombra sees how plants grow, and how they bend their leaves to face the light.
The Allegorians lead Sol down and down and down, into the pit.
The more Sombra learns, the more he hopes to discover.
The Allegorians leave Sol alone in the pit. This is where her story ends.
Sometimes, Sombra will see a crack leading down into the deep, and he wonders why his people never wondered.
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Five years ago, I co-founded The Artificial, a UX and digital product design agency in Amsterdam.
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