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From what I remember the story focuses on a young male protagonist who lives in a community of humans far beneath the surface of the earth. Maybe as part of becoming an adult, or maybe just because it's "cool", he goes on a solitary journey up the levels of their subterranean complex into uninhabited areas. Eventually he gets very close to the surface and encounters another community of humans. These ones are all very fat and it's implied that they might be harvested by aliens (maybe the aliens are the reason that humans had to go deep below the surface in the first place).

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This is Tumithak of the Corridors by Charles R. Tanner. It appeared first in Amazing Stories, January, 1932. It also appeared in the anthology "Before the Golden Age" edited by Isaac Asimov.

The corridors were carved out by advanced technology a couple thousand years before the story happens. The deep dwellers had forgotten most of the technology. Tumithak, the point-of-view character, is one of the first to reach the surface from the depths for a very long time. He goes because he is curious and wants to show that he is brave; I don't think he knows of anyone else who has gone and returned, but he manages to do that. He makes his final dash to the surface by following a vehicle that is bringing the obese humans to the surface to be the aliens' dinner. The obese humans never struggle because they believe some fantasy explanation given to them long ago by the aliens. Tumithak eventually convinces his peers to revolt.

The aliens are spider-like and live in pillar-like buildings with webbing inside of them. There is webbing between the buildings as well. The energy source used by the aliens, and by the abandoned technology of the deep dwelling humans, is in the form of cylindrical sticks that get gradually consumed by the equipment; I imagine them as sort of like giant hot-glue sticks.

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  • And again, I answer a question and don't know how to connect it to previous accepted answers.
    – nebogipfel
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 12:51
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    I see some other questions where "Tumithak" is an answer, but they are not story-id questions, but "what was the first..." type questions. Right now I don't see this as being a duplicate. Nice job! Commented May 30, 2022 at 13:49

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