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The Things Underground

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Old 10-20-2017, 04:23 AM
Nicklegh (Offline)
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Default The Things Underground

Hoping for pretty much any critique for this story of mine, especially when it comes to the 'mood' or lack thereof I've attempted to create here. Thanks in advance! :)

The Things Underground
A log recovered in the supposed location of late James Weiland according to Dr. Brian Darner on April 17th, 1931

March 10th, 1931
Underground due west of Plymouth, Massachusetts, I await my impending death alone as blood cells slowly become a rare luxury. This whole occasion was brought about when Dr. Brian Darner, a close friend and professor of anthropology in Boston, put forth a singular idea to me:
“Imagine, for a moment, something so old and foreign to all contemporary preconceived notions of humanity—so different that one might call it alien. Imagine that whatever it might have been… It lived here on Earth long before us.”

Of course I had questions; what mad flight of fancy must he have suffered from this time? I voiced my opinion and was met with a manic rant from my colleague about how I was being ignorant, and too quick to dismiss any such possibility. He told me of something entirely new which had been unearthed not far from Boston; very small initial investigations had uncovered a possible underground series of tunnels, not as expansive as perhaps the Catacombs of Paris, but still of decent size. I, as an archeologists by trade, couldn’t turn down his offer to investigate. The leader of the excavation was another friend of Darner; thanks to that we would be some of the first people to ever see the tunnels.

The drive was longer than expected, at least a hundred mile drive from Boston in a rundown breezer1 along bumpy roads. On the trip Darner elaborated on the story of these tunnels, “They were discovered about two weeks ago, apparently they are literally—as far as we know, the oldest tunnels in the world. ‘Man-made’ too, but it’s thought the tunnels are pre-human: over fifteen million years old, at least!”

Anything that old being built by any kind of civilized species had been unheard of before, it was almost incomprehensible; I felt that buzz of excitement and curiosity in my chest: the kind of feeling you get as a child when you discover a new fascination. It reminded me of a time in my childhood when I first discovered an anthropological textbook of my father’s that discussed times long passed; it included everything from fossils to ancient architecture. That book defined my life; it shaped who I was and who I would become. I think everyone must have something like that, maybe it’s not always a book, but something that inspires one to look beyond the surface of at least one thing—to discover and learn.

When we finally arrived and slowed to a stop, Darner, betraying his age of forty-eight, vaulted over the closed door of the vehicle in a moment of childlike excitement. A few seconds later he slowly returned to the car realizing he’d forgotten his camera, which he slung around his neck on a leather strap.

Rolling hills and green grass freckled with daisies in all directions with the horizon a quarter-mile or so in each distance; pure unaltered beauty in sharp contrast to a small excavation site about two feet deep in which a single man stood with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a beet red face from standing in the sun’s harmful rays.

After Darner greeted the man, his friend, he pointed us toward a small makeshift staircase that went down several steps and went through a stone portal about six feet tall; the portal led into the tunnels which were about fifteen feet underground. Without hesitation Darner walked through the doorway at an excited pace. I followed suit, equally interested if a bit more apprehensive. The tunnels were dank and dusty, honestly it felt like I was already suffocating as the walls left the impression of closing in. As Darner and I travelled further into the tunnel system and the light slowly faded in a gradient, he passed me a lantern-flashlight which I promptly turned on.

“Apparently the first junction in the tunnel from here is about a mile further down. Let’s hope this old man’s heart doesn’t give out just yet, eh James?” Darner said with a grin as we walked through the tunnel.
“Ha! Perhaps you wouldn’t have such a problem if you didn’t sit in your office all day like a bum, exercise is good for the heart haven’t you heard?” I teased. We both had a good laugh at that as we walked along.

Later on, when the tunnel had gotten even darker, and nothing was visible outside our dim circle of light; Darner turned to me with a slight grin and said in an amused tone “I wonder what Jungian2 daemons may be lurking inside our shadows, ready to strike—perhaps they creep behind us right now ready to grab our necks,” It was then Darner gave me a quick and gentle slap on the back of the neck, “ha! You should have seen the look on your face.”
I gave Darner a light, playful punch on the shoulder, admittedly I wanted to hit him quite a bit harder, but then probably wasn’t the best time. As a man of science I should put little stock in such things, but the vague shapes on the walls borne from the lantern’s light, which made shadows dance, could make any man wonder.

“I’ll get you back for that; you sneaky son of a bitch.” Despite myself I still grinned as I responded to Darner’s stupidly clever prank.
“Yeah… we’ll see about that.” Darner responded somewhat quietly, and with a mixture of emotions both on his face and in his voice; I hadn’t a clue what could evoke such a sudden change in attitude from him, but I figured it best to not pry. We didn’t speak for the rest of the walk.

After the quiet twenty minute trek concluded; we reached another portal into a cylindrical room with another three doors at each cardinal direction, and I could scarcely keep my jaw closed: All along the walls were a string of etchings and possibly linguistic characters in bas-relief style from the floor to the ceiling about ten feet up. In university I was forced to be able to at least recognise over two-hundred different languages, ancient and modern. Not a one matched the walls in this room.

I relayed this to Darner. “My best guess would be Egyptian, judging from the style of the pictograms; the characters though, are completely foreign to me.” I said in deep thought as I ran my hand gently over the engravings feeling my heart accelerate.

“Egyptian sounds possible… but like you said I… I’ve never seen anything like this!” Darner admitted in a mixture of awe and excitement as he snapped a few pictures; his previous meekness dissipated. “I only wish we had brought clay to make an imprint with.” I slowly nodded my head and made a sound of agreement, still trying to process the discovery.

The etching I was looking at displayed vaguely simian figures on all fours, somewhat like pre-humans, but with squared features and the queer ability to walk on walls as one might the earth; a concept not unheard of in cultural art like this. We spent several hours investigating the drawings; from what we could figure, the creatures displayed on the walls were far more advanced than we are now. One pictogram showing some sort of vehicle with its detailed schematics visiting the moon not unlike Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. Another of the more lucid images displayed something exceedingly peculiar; us: humans flying airplanes and driving cars… but these tunnels were dug in the period of the great apes… Unless… Oh god!

“Darner!” He snapped to attention at my raised voice. “Take a look at this one; I need a second opinion.” I said as I pointed to the carving. “How old would you say this Bas-Relief is, if you had to guess?”

Darner walked over at a hesitant pace, and giving the section of the wall a look over; A few moments later his eyes shot open wide. “By god! This looks practically fresh in archeological terms,” My fears had been affirmed, “but that means… It means they’re still alive, and observing humans; perhaps even studying us!” I could hear the same mixture of excitement and fear in his exclamation that I felt building inside my chest.

“We—we should leave, Brian.” I stumbled over my words; I felt the walls closing in faster. My eyes were darting in every direction looking for any sign of life other than us. “If these… things were making carvings recently, they might live in these tunnels!” Out of the corner of my eye I—maybe saw movement behind one of the four doorways surrounding us.

“Nonsense, my boy; even if they did—live here that is—I doubt they would do anything radical. They are inclined to study us after all.” Darner said as he waved a dismissive hand. “We should investigate further; we still have three unpassed doorways.” I thought I could hear the tapping of their feet; I wasn’t so confident in my safety—they were probably just as likely to rip us open as they were to try and communicate with us.

“No! Can’t you see? They’re still here, right now! I don’t care what you say; I’m leaving!” My voice panicked, and full of the need to run. Closer… Closer… They’re coming… I can—feel it—them.

When I bent down to pick up my lantern I heard a blood-chilling click: the sound of a revolver being cocked. Darner was blocking the exit firearm in hand.

“I’m sorry James…” Darner aimed the instrument of death between my eyes, “but this discovery is far too important for us to share, and I can’t let you leave; I imagine I’ll soon be the most famous man in the world!” His voice slowly raising to a manic yell, his eyes wide, bloodshot, and mad; his hands shaking and tightly gripping the revolver.

“Brian! I was at your daughter’s wedding, I helped you walk her down the aisle with your broken leg you- you- bastarding-bastard-on-bastard-toast! We could share this, why would you do this?!—Gah! That doesn’t even matter now, we need to leave—or god knows what will happen to us!” I screamed trying to get through to him.

“You always were ignorant; no one remembers the second person to fly the aeroplane! Think of who people will remember two-hundred years later: The young spry archeologist, or the old man?!” He was screaming now and completely ignoring me, his eyes filling with tears; his finger agitatedly slid up and down the trigger of the firearm. “I’m sorry Ja-“ The rest was muffled by the sound of gunfire.
He squeezed and fired away before I could even think to act: two single bullets.

Darner put one in each of my legs… He didn’t even have the nerve to kill me. He dropped the gun and ran towards the exit screaming bloody murder afterwards, perhaps in realization of what he had done. It seems he nicked an artery, it’d be impossible for me to crawl a mile in this condition—all I can do is leave this. I still lay in that same cylindrical room. I can feel them closing in on me even with my eyes closed; I can see their squared faces slowly creeping towards me even as my vision darkens. I can hear the patter of their two hands and two feet upon the stone floor… Upon the walls and the ceiling… all slowly closing in. I don’t know what they’ll do to me, but I doubt it a fate worse than the slow, cold embrace of death.

Unless they kill me themselves, of course.

1. 1. Breezer: An old slang term for a convertible automobile.
2. 2. Jungian: Carl Jung (1875-1961) is the Swiss psychologist who effectively invented the idea of “Inner Demons”, or “Shadows”. He was a student of Freud.

I mean, with all due respect dude: I think you're scum! -Tim Minchin, 2016
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Old 10-20-2017, 06:24 AM
IanG (Offline)
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You build tension and atmosphere very well here, and I like the touch of ambiguity at the end -are these things really closing in or is the narrator having a panic attack? Good work.
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Nicklegh (10-21-2017)
Old 10-20-2017, 03:47 PM
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Oh boy. That was awesome! Great job.

I felt that the pace was a bit too fast, but I like long lengthy novels, so it's a matter of taste I guess.

while the mood was evident, It wasn't really an all-encompassing vibe. Wasn't really the slightly creepy vibe you may have been going for. But I liked it.

He should feel betrayed, sickened, that his friend and comrade would do this to him. A shortcoming of this kind of format is you don't have time for these lengthy digresses into emotions.

In short, it was a good piece, but the format you wrote it in (the journalistic thing) made a good story harder to write.
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Nicklegh (10-21-2017)

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