Later. After 2 more floors of papers and notes (I’ll come back to that) I found on the stairs a sign of my predecessor. A note, not unlike the first in appearance. And content, unfortunately.
Here it goes…
I’m seem to be still ahead of them. As to the extend, I am still of my own will, and still breathing. Can’t say for how long this will hold. Not for as long as I would like I’m afraid.
Since my chances to bring this all to the light seems to be as good as a farmers outlook in the bowl, I will put to use what time I have left.
It all started out as a rumor I overheard in a hole-in-the-wall some months back. Some guy talking some other guys ear off, how much money he had made bringing new workers to the pipe works. This got me curious, an operational company having to pay someone to get new workers in a time when hundreds of thousands are out of work, desperate for anything that brings them money for another day? As a freelance reporter, I did not need much more to get on it.
I managed to get into one of the next “draws” as the called it, we were a couple of 20 or so guys looking for work, getting rounded up in a truck and driven out here for to make more pipes. All of me (except yours truly) out of work farmers, farmhands and some drifters looking for a handful of cash. Nobody that would be asked after… at last not from the “right” people. We got quarters in nearby sheds, cheap affairs, but still better than most of the others had ever known.
First week brought us the usual misery of low-grade low-paid workers. 12 hours a day in a loud, dusty, humid and above all hot environment. My suspicions began already to crumble, taking a hefty whacking after the first weeks pay turned out somewhat less than a rainfall than most of us had expected. But then it started.
Great. King of Cliffhangers they called him I bet. And the splash of what looks like dirt and ink across the page would be just that.
Anyway, back to where I came from. Since paper has a certain sort of attraction to me (one never knows when someone else was careless enough to write something down which he shouldn’t have done in the first place) I could not resist lighting a candle (I found a whole room of old-timey lighting implements like candles and oil-lamps and stuff) and doing some serious reading. It still is as quiet like it can only get underground in the dark, I had the chance to make the most of my situation, and it came to me that being gone for a while might not be bad, considering Catherine’s state when I left her.
So, while most of the stuff I came across did read like what in every company above garage-based entrepreneurs is expected, the section with no titles in the books yielded some dirt. First of it- real books. Not ringbinders, or bundled sheets, real books bound in some sort of ceramic plates, with sheets of some sort of silky smooth stuff, feeling more like silk than paper. Glass fiber, at a guess. At first I took it for a marketing stunt (ceramic pipe making company does their high-end sales brochures in the same material then their product… neat) but the contents weren’t exactly fit for a sales pitch. I got only the rough gist of it, but according to what I could get those where some sort of documentary about the discovery of a wide-spread cave system, that had its outliers beneath the factory ground. Shortly after initial opening of the factory they needed a bigger cooling pond for their machinery, after digging that and loosing massive amounts of water in it they discovered cracks in the pond floor acting like a drainage. While trying (unsuccessfully) to seal them up some of the workers got themself trapped in a cave-in (chuckling to myself now… I know that feel). The workers later became known as the circle.
After they re-emergence from underground those in the circle soon started rising in the ranks of the company, soon replacing the then owner. They did this by displaying an uncanny knowledge of business practices and bootstrapping some new inventions in their market niche.
This was the official story.
Unofficially, but seriously well-documented in their gospel (those books) they acted more like blood lords from fairy tales. Their true goal seems to have been to break through to something sealed away somewhere deep in the lithosphere, basically deep enough to be just above the moho. For which purpose is anybody guess, but, since they basically belt-fed their workers into the underground as diggers with a seriously short life expectancy I doubt I could have been any good.
The books contained quite graphic descriptions of how reluctant worker got coerced to dig further, no need for soft tactics like persuasion and extortion, just right on they went, up to and including the public “dismantling” of those unwilling to sacrifice themselves.
But looks like I got to going now, I hear the feds behind me already. Laters, dear diary.
…the f**k wrote that? God, what happens? Where am I now? I…
Damn. I thought I could make it .What a joke. I never had a chance.
They are close now, I can hear them as if they where right behind the next turn of this corridor. But I now get it. They are here already.
Maybe I can finish this still. Some more minutes to squeeze out my existence as me.
At the end of the second week, when still no one complained of lack of connection to loved ones and left-behind kin, so, in effect, when we confirmed nobody would come looking for us, some guys took us down in the cellar, and down deeper. Deeper and deeper, in corridors lined, and later made of the ceramic pipes they made above us. As if walking through a gigantic vein, that fed directly into an organism deep below us. Our guards were uncommunicative to us, but talked rather freely amongst each other. Nothing new there, that is what prison guards always do. What made me listen more closely than was the languages they were talking in. I recognized among the expected English, german and polish words some phrases I heard before from the mexican patrons of a peculiar dive I had visited sometime before, words I think had indian origin and names shouted that sounded vaguely norwegian to me. All this from people who did not look in the slightest fitting to the languages they spoke.
All this ceased when we came through a patch where presumably a water vein crossed the tunnel. We crawled for what felt a mile trough wet mud and stagnant puddles of water. That was when I first noticed the cleaner air. We must have walked through a nearly invisible dust cloud for hours, that gave way only when the surface of the mud acted like a sponge by binding the dust and thus cleaning the air. Only there the guards seemingly lost all knowledge they formerly possed of the foreign languages, speaking only languages in tone with their presumed heritage. Some of them seemed to nearly lose all intelligence and had to be guided by the other guards like sleepwalkers or drug addicts on the last legs.
Some of us captives have been beginning to complain of difficulties with their cognitive facilities, of feeling like hearing voices out of the air, of loosing memories of their families and friends, of not knowing items of former public interest that are common knowledge (like one guy who was bragging about the scars he got back in the Great War did not remember anything of his former stories he told us just last weekend). Instead they remembered things like the conquistadore coming to their lands in more vivid detail than a skilled historian would have been able to supply.
All this too ceased when we reached this mud hole. From this I gather there is something in the dust that influences us. It can only be the dust, nothing else fits.
The dust contains memories. It contains the personalities of the people who died down here before. It infects slowly, but as long as you are exposed to it, it builds up.
I have to get out of here. No matter how. I will find a way. I always find a way.
Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.
*END OF PART 2 OF 3*