"My god, do you realize what we've uncovered here Wilkinson?"

"It's enormous Dr. Trousdale."

"A vast cavern no less than a hundred feet around, traveling steadily downward. Forget the treasure of the Mayans now, whatever caused this cavern three hundred feet below the surface, is a far greater scientific discovery. We'll need lanterns, the lowering device, and as much food, water, and rope as we can carry."

The trail was of hollowed rock, as if something perfectly round had caused this hundred food diameter tunnel to occur. Perhaps a river, hundreds of thousands of years old. But not likely, for that would not cause a perfectly round tunnel to be formed.

Our expedition followed the hollowed cavernous trail steadily downward into the Earth, deeper and deeper still. At the end of the first week the heat of the cavern had become almost unbearable. By my guess the temperature was easily one hundred and five degrees Fahrenheit. I urged the doctor to turn back, it could continue at this pace for many more miles, and we were not built to withstand this kind of heat for long. We reached an agreement that if the trail continued still deeper at the end of the next day we would indeed turn back and end our journey.

That night we awoke to an earthquake. Our estimates agreed it was only about a three on the Richter scale. The people on the surface probably did not even feel it, we were several miles under by this time in our adventure. The excitement of the moment passed and we slept once more.

On our last day of travel we encountered two more similar tremors during our hike. It seemed odd, tremors occurring so close together on the same morning.

Around one o'clock, just after lunch, we discovered it. A hole no bigger than fifteen feet around, directly in the tunnel floor. We could not see its bottom from our point at the edge of the hole. The doctor tore a few pages from his log book, wrapped them around a stone, and from the light of the lantern, lit them and let them drop. We watched eagerly as the light flared and disappeared into the darkness, we heard nothing.

"Bottomless," the doctor said with eyes a blaze. "I'm going down," he said as he removed his pack. "Help me set up the lowering device and rope."

"We're set now. Test your short wave radio."

We tested our radios and they worked fine.

"Right, lower me down."

With the lantern and radio tied securely to the doctors rope I began to slowly lower him down. Down and down he went. I had begun to wonder if he still lived, or if some odd fate had befallen him. I had been lowering him for quite some time.

"I can see now," he said over the radio. "Quickly, it's safe to lower me in groups of one hundred feet. Pause im-between them so I can say when to stop."

"What do you see doctor?" I called over the radio.

"A light, a warm red glow far below me."

I lowered once, and again, and a third time. His depth now totaled five hundred feet below me.

"That's all there is doctor," I warned, having reached the end of the rope.

"It's beautiful," he whispered after a pause, whispering as if not to disturb what wonder he saw.

"What can you see?"

"I'm at the very top of an extremely high cavern. It looks to be a mile or so across and several hundred feet high. Sporadically in the cavern are columns reaching up to the ceiling. It's incredible, the floor is a river of flowing lava, the river runs as far as I can see. It's too thick to tell how deep it is. A fabulous soft glow emanates from its surface. If you could only see it! It's like a beautiful colored fountain stained red. The lava reflects off..." His voice faded as something far greater withdrew his attention.

"What is it doc?"

"I can see off in the distance...something boat like...approaching at enormous speed." His words were filled with excitement.

A few moments after his words had ceased, a small earthquake passed.

"Dear God! Did you feel that Wilkinson? That was the result of the shock waves from the ripples created in the lava flow, by what I can only describe as a great worm. It's length must be enormous. I only caught a glimpse of it's size, for only a part of it could be seen above the lava. My God, those shock waves created by just one were enormous. Imagine it, if this were merely one of a hundred, perhaps even thousands, of others. Just think about the horrendous repercussions they would have on the movements of the tectonic plates....my God..." The last words were merely a whisper, the doctors excited tone turning to terror.

"Hang on Wilkinson!" His shout was barely heard through the rushing sound I could hear over the other end of the short wave radio.

Then it hit me with an explosion. A huge earthquake shaking everything. I fell over, my lamp shattered on the ground, I heard the crashing of bits of the roof falling all around me. It was incredible, it had to be strong as the great quake of San Francisco, perhaps stronger.

The quake eventually subsided, the whole ordeal lasted probably no more than twenty seconds, but it seemed an eternity. I fumbled about in the dark for my radio.

"Doctor...." I called into the radio a second time, "Doctor....Are you still down there?" Still no response.

I rummaged through my pockets for my lighter, finally finding it and lighting it, I discovered that the lowering device had tipped over, and the rope had snapped and now hung loosely. I shuddered at the thought of what had happened to the doctor far below. I yelped as the lighters intense heat burned at my thumb. I sat and began to wonder how I was to get out from this deep black abyss with my sanity. I began to wonder if I would make it out at all.

Copyright Eric Stryker 1988, 1997, 2001