They wanted to repossess my dog. I’d defaulted on my student loans and the creditors sent a letter that they were coming to take her. That was finally the thing that sent me away from your society.
Very carefully I did not answer the phone. When someone came to the door I held my breath.
My dog did a whoof. I put my hand on the nape of her neck, where the collar would be if I was cruel. I said, “Shhhhhh.”
Her coat was slick and shiny because I’d been feeding her avocados and eggs to ready her for our journey, our escape. Her fur felt good on my palm, there was no fear.
The shadow outside on the porch leaned on the glass with cupped hands, trying to peek into my house. But the power had been off ever since I’d lit the bomb off in my basement and blew a hole in the floor, wide and deep.
“Everything alright in there?” My dog growled. The person left.
They’d already towed my car out of the driveway. But it was alright, I’d been preparing and wouldn’t need a car where I was going.
Did anybody ever tell you the earth is hollow? That’s where Agartha is. You can go and live inside this hollow earth beneath your feet if you like. There are many secret passageways, many ways in, but most of them narrow. Just a couple bitcoins buys you a vague map. You’ll love it down there, the cost of living is lower. You don’t need a car, or car insurance or gasoline or oil changes. It’s amazing what you can learn on the Internet.
Someone knocked on the back door. I peaked around the corner. Through the window in the door I could see another shadowed outline in the day lit world.
I whispered to my dog, “It was a mistake to buy all this knowledge and then to try and sell the knowledge back to someone else. That’s the way a curse is sometimes passed on—save yourself from the curse by cursing someone else.”
And by light of cellphone flashlight we opened the cellar door and began our adventure downward.
My suitcase with fantastic rolling caster wheels was at the mouth of the crater, stuffed with survival gear and food: beef jerky, black beans, dehydrated milk and instant coffee, fig bars and sunflower seeds, nine gallons of water.
The bomb hadn’t opened the passageway to Agartha. I’d had to jackhammer through another seven feet of rock, but finally I broke through and exposed the entrance to one of the tunnels.
Now, I threw my suitcase into that passageway, then jumped down into the tunnel myself. With a whistle my dog took the leap of faith too. I caught her like a touchdown. She’d follow me anywhere. I pushed the button and our lantern lit up. We began to walk through the crude tunnel: roots and dripping water from above, mineral stink, pebbles falling here and there, the distant rumblings of vehicles.
With 1% battery life on the phone left and a signal so weak, I stopped and sent my brother this brief email:
Set off a bomb in my house and I climbed into the crater. Won’t be at your place for Thanksgiving. Tell Michelle I am sorry. If you want, there is a jackhammer that fell into the hole, seven feet, if you get it out and bring back to Hardware Heaven, you can get my deposit back. It’s $100. Love you, don’t follow.
I stuffed my phone in my pocket, but like an angry animal it buzzed in protest. A text.
Date: Hi, I’m at the restaurant. R U here?
Me: I’m sorry! forgot about our date! actually I’m descending though the crust of the earth as we speak …
Date: what does that mean?
Me: uh, moving, changing careers … don’t wanna be an adjunct professor anymore, don’t wanna teach creative writing … have decided to venture underground, legit
Me: so I won’t be dating for awhile probs, but it’s no reflection on you
Date: fuck youuuuuuuuu
I wanted to comfort my date, so they’d understand I wasn’t just rejecting them, I was rejecting them and everything else. But it was useless.
The first day we walked without rest, gradually going deeper. The walls were muddy and in some spots rubbing against my shoulders. At one point, I felt claustrophobic and turned sideways. I took my dead cellphone out of my pocket and shoved the cellphone into the mud. It disappeared with a sucking sound and I smiled, feeling relieved. Later that day, I tossed my wallet and my car keys/house keys into a bubbling pool of water that smelled like rotten eggs and sorrow. That too made me feel better. Lighter and heroic. The ‘night’ was chilly and of course dark outside of the lantern light. I wrapped a wool blanket around myself and sat with my dog beneath stalagmite dotted orange and yellow with fungus. Time existed only on a wrist watch, but each second that clicked off felt like a joyful goodbye to human history.
That night I had a dream that my house was loaded onto a flat bed truck and the house was driven back to the bank and the bank ate my house. All the bankers came out of the bank and ripped off a piece of my house and in the blinding sunshine, the bankers laughed and ate and grew fat while they consumed everything I owned and in the dream I felt better and better.
They ate through the walls of the house and into the house and ate every book I had ever read. Each book they ate, cleared my mind in the dream. And then they ate my clothes and my photo albums and even my mother and father’s ashes on the mantel, and that made me feel good too. The bankers ate into my bedroom and consumed the pile of bills on my nightstand. They ate my checkbook and the notebook where I kept all my secret passwords. They ate the calendars from the wall. They completely freed me of everything. I woke up so happy.
I woke my dog and in the lantern light, I fed her crackers and canned chicken and the last of the baby carrots.
We walked on. The path a winding downward slope. Occasionally, I found a couple steps that were carved with obvious chisel marks. Man made. At one point that day, I found a graffiti on the wall in pink spray paint: HOW COULD THEY SEE ANYTHING BUT SHADOWS?
Farther up, there were initials and dates … so and so wuz here. Besides occasional litter, this was the only sign of American life I saw, unless some of the swastikas I found were painted by Americans, which they are known to do from time to time.
Later that day, my dog and I came across great underground pools of water, steaming and seeming fresh, but I didn’t let my dog go in the water and I didn’t go in either. I’d just seen a news report about a person who had climbed inside a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park and they had melted from the water, dying almost instantly, disintegrating.
Instead of going in the water, I poured some bottled water and let my dog drink from my hand.
I said, “Sometimes I think knowledge is just a weight that crushes a person. The more you know, the more the weight crushes down on you. It might save your life, but it also makes you miserable.”
My dog looked up at me and I wondered how joyous it must be to only have to know a couple words.
I said, “Did you know that ants can carry ten times their own weight? Did you know that ants have the IQ of an ant, not very smart. Ants do fine, they can carry a lot of weight. Ants are very happy and they have all the things an ant needs to live a full insect life. I can’t even afford new sneakers. I just glued my sole back on and now I am ready to walk for awhile.”
After my big speech to my silent dog, I too was silent for days. As if I’d taken a vow and the vow was powering the journey itself.
The path opened into a great hall of stone. A natural amphitheater, empty, except for the echo of my footsteps and the panting of my dog.
Some people will tell you there is no chance whatsoever that the earth is hollow. I am well acquainted with those kinds of people. I used to see them all the time on message boards. I used to argue with them all the time. But each time I tried to fight their ignorance, all I figured out from doing my own research was that there are so many things beyond the narrow scope of the human mind … I’d click a link and find some other truth (satellite photos of massive holes seen in the north pole, shot from space). (A respected air force pilot who had flown his plane into one of these openings at the pole and had seen first hand, vast ranges of underground mountain, rivers, a purple sea itself, subterranean cities, glimmering.)
I first learned about Agartha from a YouTube clip. An astronaut in zero gravity playing around with a bubble of water.
The astronaut had some contraption that mimicked the exact rotation of the earth around the sun. And the bubble of water hung suspended in the orbit.
The astronaut then pointed out that air bubbles inside the floating water droplet were forming and being pushed to its center, creating a natural hollow.
Next part of the video the astronaut narrated a cartoon clip of how earth was formed with molten lava, and as it spun in space cartoon lava earth cooled and the air bubbles formed in the middle of cartoon lava earth too. The place was called Agartha.
The third ‘day’, it began to warm up because there is a blue sun in the center of the earth, and I was walking towards it with my dog. Earth doesn’t have a molten core, it has a blue son. Isn’t science so cool?
And on the fourth day I felt comfortable enough to let you know that my dog’s name is Enoch. She’s a good dog. She’s kind and not too bright, but her sense of smell and sense of direction are impeccable. So when there was a branch in the tunnel, I always felt comfortable letting Enoch pick the way. That fifth night we stopped as usual in our passage and I sat and ate and fed Enoch some of our beef jerky and the last of our Honey Nut Cheerios.
The lantern was beginning to dim, its battery fading, we wouldn’t have much more light.
“We’ll be stumbling around in the dark like ignoramuses soon. Get ready for that new way of life. Lucky for us I packed other batteries.”
But then there was the sound of birds and I was stunned to see them flutter past us. Enoch leapt up and snapped her jaw but the birds were small and fast.
I knew for sure that we were headed the right direction. The birds were trying to get back up to your sky.
After that Enoch didn’t even have to pick which way we went at the splits. I knew just to be walking towards the birds, going the opposite way. Going against common animalistic sense to see the topside skies. To feel the sweet wind. To let the rain wash the dust from their wings.
That night, just before we were ready to stop traveling, we came to a branch in the tunnel with a sign that read city right, canyon left.
I climbed a set of stone steps towards the Canyon. Enoch didn’t want to go that way, so I let her stay in the tunnel, tail down and growling. At the top of the steps there was a small hatch, bolted closed, but not locked. I lifted the hatch and blue light filled the tunnel. I opened the hatch the rest of the way and climbed up.
Enoch barked.“It’s okay,” I said. But I wasn’t sure, myself.
Up there, the blue sun hung dead center between two sheer faced stone walls, yellow and white, that looked unscalable. This sun did not rise. This sun did not set. It was forever hovering in place. The canyon walls had ivy growing in spots high up.
I walked down the path. All I saw was stone and ivy. But the farther away from the hatch I got, the more I lost my wits. Then I saw something coming my way on the path ahead and I froze. Something the size of a boot, bouncing in quick leaps. The creature was covered in fur that was dragging on the ground. Protruding tusks. Antlers. It realized I was there and it lifted its head to look me in the eye. Thats when I lost my shit and turned back and sprinted towards the hatch.
Once I was in the tunnel again with Enoch I felt better. I sat on the steps and calmed myself. Enoch was down on the floor, drinking some drippings that had fallen from the ceiling of the tunnel.
I lifted the hatch again and peeked out. There were more of those creatures up there. I counted three now. They were sniffing the ground and hopping along.
I lowered the hatch and bolted it closed again. I said to Enoch, “Okay, girl, you were right about the canyon. It’s not safe there. The canyon is filled with rabbits from outer space … inner space. Let’s go.”
Two more days we walked like that, ignoring branches in the tunnel that went anywhere but towards the city.
I was startled when we suddenly came to the end of the tunnel and there was a woman sitting at a desk reading a magazine by candlelight. Beyond her was a wooden door.
“You’re not a lizard a person …” I smiled.
“Thanks for noticing,” she said, she had a strong german accent.
“I’m looking for a new world to live in, is it through that door?”
She looked at the door and considered it.“I like it, I guess. You have to work though. Will you work?”
“If I have to I will.”
“You do, yeah. Way it goes. What kinds of skills do you have?”
“I was a teacher,” I said. “A college professor.”
“Oh, that’s no good,” she frowned … “Okay. Can I see some proof?”
I reached in my back pocket and pulled out my ID card to get into the university. I also had my diploma. I handed the two things over.
She looked at Enoch. I said, “She doesn’t bite.”
She said, “She’s got teeth, she bites. Any fool knows that.”
The woman scowled, and handed back the diploma.
“We don’t value knowing things. What’d you make a year up there?”
“Negative fifteen thousand dollars.”
“Happily, there are no teaching jobs here. Most top side college professors have become trench diggers and now perform heavy manual labor. Can you peel potatoes? Have you ever done any janitorial work? What about burying the dead?”
I carefully folded my diploma back up and slid it back into my pocket.
“Bury the dead? I have a college degree,” I said.
“So you think this work is beneath you?”
“Physically speaking,” she said. “You’re at the bottom of the world. If you want to go in, you’ll have to swing a pick ax, you’ll have to gather mushrooms, you’ll have to sheer wooly beasts and work the shoots that drain the oceans for our crops. You will do this work?”
“I’ll be valued?”
“You’ll be valued, yes.”
I stared at the closed door just beyond her desk.
“Though that door …” I said. “Is that Hell?”
“Nah, It’s a nice place. Not much crime. Just no normal sunshine. Where you came from, was that Hell?”
I shook my head. “I’ll mop the netherworld,” I said.
“Good. But first, I’ll see that you eat that college degree of yours.”
I said, “Done.”
I was hungry anyway. So I took my diploma out of my back pocket and stuffed it in my mouth. Chewed and chewed.
Next up the woman had me fill out paperwork.
I filled it all out in a gleeful scribble. Out came the rubber stamper, slammed down on my application.
“Welcome to your new life.”
As the door opened, a wave of birds that had been waiting for their chance, flew past in a desperate swoosh. My dog spun her head, tongue hanging out, watching them fly back into total darkness.
Bud Smith works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is the author of F250, Calm Face, Dust Bunny City, among others. His memoir, Work Safe Or Die Trying will be released by CCM in 2017. www.budsmithwrites.com