It was dark here. Pitch black. Gritty, slimy, damp, and full of things I didn't really want to think about. The human eye is not adapted to seeing underground. I had to feel and sense my way. I bumped into rocks, sewer lines, buried junk, roots, snakes, gophers, moles, high-voltage buried cables, a dog's skeleton, and a swimming pool. Occasionally, at a hill or valley, I accidentally came partially back aboveground. This was usually pretty scary. Like the time I was halfway down a serious cliff, or the time I stuck my head right in front of a speeding bus on the Interstate just outside of Memphis. But you get used to it. Talk bout dirt under the fingernails! And my ears never felt clean.
I gradually became aware of light ahead. And voices. This bothered me a lot. There were no underground bomb shelters or military installations in the vicinity, to my knowledge. The main voice I heard was very melodic, and somehow carried great authority, insecurity, a hint of drug-crazed madness, loneliness, and a sepulchral quality that would make a hound dog howl around the clock under a jailhouse rock. Yes, at last I, too, saw Elvis. He was running an underground empire you wouldn't believe. He looked busy, so I kept going. I could have sworn he winked at me as I passed by.
A while later I ended up in Mississippi, in some swamps. You have no idea how hard it is to get used to being underwater all the time, especially that kind of water, and even when you should be in dry land. At one point, the ground shook as if the planet were coming apart at the seams. I wasn't too scared, even if it was the end of the world. I was ready. But it turned out to just be a test firing of a new, massive rocket engine NASA had built.
Texas was great. I had to stay deep, under what I used to call bedrock, but now called ceilingrock. The residual radiation from recent events was absolutely incredible. At one point, I came upon a heat source so intense I was afraid there was an underground reaction, or a volcano maybe. It turned out to be some sort of heat-conducting cable running from El Paso to the Gulf. I didn't know what was going on, so I didn't follow it.
Death Valley was great. By now I was pretty used to all sorts of things, and what awaits the scientists there is amazing. Skeletons of things the Smithsonian never thought of. A couple of civilizations destroyed by who knows what, preserved under the desert. I mostly lived off of body fat during this part of the trip. Occasionally I found a water pocket. Mummified vultures are ok eating, but it takes a lot of work.
At last I reached the Pacific. A sudden longing came over me to see the sky. This hit under the beach, when I heard the waves crashing overhead. Their thunder was so beautiful. I also wanted something less salty to drink than what was available here. Figuring I ought to be in Southern California, and knowing how wierd people there were reported to be, I felt safe, and stuck my head out of the sand.
My first impressions were that my eyes were being burned out with a torch. High frequency sounds I hadn't heard in months assailed my ears like a squadron of deadly heavy metal guitar riffs. I felt as if my head were about to explode from the near-vacuum that seemed to be about. I forced myself further out, and collapsed on the beach, barely able to stay conscious. Only the soothing sound of the surf, enhanced now with the hiss and splash of droplets made sense, and I hung onto that. At last the chaos around me resolved itself. What it resolved to was a circle of people thirty feet away, many looking scared stiff, several pointing TV cameras at me, and far too many aiming nasty-looking guns my way. I looked down at myself. I was devoid of clothing by now, it having all worn away, of course, but was covered with roots, snails (the barnacles of the underground), worms, dead fish parts, dirt, and various other detritus, not to mention my tangled, gnarly hair, now multi-hued from my travels. Suddenly, taking in the fact that half the people on the beach were cowpokes, I remembered. California had fallen into the sea. This was Arizona. Still Barry Goldwater after all these years.
I raised my hand in a peace sign, and dove into the sand just before the first NATO .223 rounds dug furiously into the beach beside me. Soon I was deep and far away, with only the distant bass beat of the surf to keep my company. Turning my back to my former homeland, I began what I knew would be a long journey under the Pacific.
Go to next chapter.
Last updated: 1 JulMay 1994
Copyright 1989, 1990, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
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