The Hollow Earth

 

“Pardon me, young fella, is this the home of Edgar Poe?”

There was a solid man of medium stature looking at me. He had a short nose, a broad face, and skin that was deeply weathered and tanned. I knew Eddie still had some bad debts, so I didn‟t answer the man directly.

“What‟s your name, sir?” I asked him.

Jeremiah Reynolds,” said he. “Come to see Mr. Poe from Washington. I sent him a letter advising him of my arrival today.”

I got to my feet and made him welcome. “Eddie‟s been talking about you. He went out, but I reckon he‟ll be back soon. My name‟s Mason Bustler, I... I know some Reynoldses in Hardware, Virginia.”

“I‟m from everywhere but Virginia,” said Reynolds, setting down his travel case and taking a seat. When he smiled, which was often, his leathery skin creased in many wrinkles. “So, Mason, what is your trade? And what does Mr. Poe say about me? Good things, I trust?”

“Mr. Poe‟s taken me on as a printer‟s devil at the Southern Literary Messenger,” I said. “And about you... he believes in the Symmes theory that there‟s big holes at the North and South poles leading to the inside of the earth. He was disappointed that you didn‟t tell Congress about the Hollow Earth in your speech last month.”

“Ten years ago I was a firebrand like our Eddie,” said Reynolds, chuckling a bit. “I traveled from city to city with Mr. Symmes giving speeches. He was an odd duck, our Symmes. He‟s dead now, you know; his grave in Ohio is marked with a great hollow sphere. Symmes and I made some converts, and Congress approved an expedition, but nothing came of it. In the end I had to lead my own expedition to the high southern latitudes. We made sixty-seven degrees; a thousand miles south of the Falklands. Surely you‟ve heard of the South Sea Fur Company and Exploring Expedition?”

 

“Was that trip the subject of your pamphlet?” I said politely.

“Indeed.” Reynolds beamed. “It is a pleasure to meet a young lad of such erudition! You have profited from your association with Mr. Poe! Yes, I led my own expedition for the southern Hole, but very soon the crew—ignorant money-hungry sealers—rebelled and forced us to turn back. Rather than return empty-handed, I had the crew put me off in Chile, where I spent some years tramping about. It took me nearly five years to get back to what we call civilization. Civilization indeed, that pack of purple-bottomed Jacksonians that is our poor young nation‟s Congress. The Symmes Hole is real, young Mason. I have specimens and tales to prove it. What think you of this?”

He drew a thumb-size white lump out of his pocket and passed it to me. It was an animal‟s tooth, marked all over with lines into which some native craftsman had rubbed ink. Along the length of the tooth was a thin map—the map of Chile, with all its intricacies of islands. Carved in less detail was the eastern, Patagonian, coast of South America, and even more sketchily presented were the jagged battlements of the southern wall of ice. The striking thing about this crude globe was that a hole had been drilled in the tooth tip, and the tooth‟s interior had been to some degree hollowed out. Etched on the inside was a mythical landscape of fruits and great beasts.

“The natives speak of a Hollow Earth?” I said, handing the tooth back to Reynolds.

“Indeed.” He nodded, his genial face grown solemn. “They call it the land of Tekelili, and their gods are said to live there. When a volcano erupts, it is the gods reaching out from Tekelili. I have more than the natives‟ reports, Mason, much more. I hesitate to speak openly of these things—I do not seek the ridicule of poor Symmes—but as you are a friend of Eddie‟s, you will understand. Did you know that in the southernmost climes of Chile the seals and migratory birds head out across the water towards the Pole when the season grows colder? And that there is a great white whale named Mocha Dick who turns his flukes, and sounds, and never resurfaces till three days have passed? He swims through a deep ocean hole to surface on the seas of Tekelili, Mason. Would that I could ride there in his belly.”

“Isn‟t Congress going to vote for an exploring expedition?”

Reynolds laughed wearily. “I believe now that they will finally vote the money for a proper United States exploring expedition, but the expedition will be, as Mr. Poe fears, of little ultimate use. A scheming pock-faced poltroon named Captain Wilkes is even now machinating to take command of the expedition; there is no hope of his pushing past seventy degrees southern latitude to the eighties and on towards the final polar ninety, where the great mystery must be found. The high southern latitudes hold wonders beyond imagining. There is a whole new world there for the men with the courage to vault the walls of ice!”

                                                               Rudy Rucker, The Hollow Earth

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El Dios humeante

 

 

Me encontró un barco ballenero escocés, “The Arlington.” Ellos habían despejado en Dundee en septiembre, y había salido inmediatamente para el antártico, en busca de ballenas. El capitán, Angus MacPherson, parecía amablemente dispuesto, pero en materia de disciplina, como pronto aprendí, poseía una voluntad de hierro. Cuando intenté decirle que había venido del “interior” de la tierra, el capitán y su segundo se miraron, sacudieron sus cabezas, e insistieron en que me acostara en una litera bajo estricta vigilancia del médico de abordo. Estaba muy débil para desear alimento, y no había dormido desde hacia muchas horas. Sin embargo, después de unos pocos días de descanso, me levanté una mañana y me vestí sin pedir el permiso del médico o de cualquier otro, y les dije que estaba tan sano como cualquier persona.

El capitán envió por mí y de nuevo me preguntó de dónde había venido, y de cómo llegue a estar solo en un iceberg tan remoto en el océano antártico. Contesté que acababa de venir del “interior” de la tierra, y continué contándole cómo mi padre y yo habíamos entrado por Spitzbergen, y habíamos salido por un país del polo sur, por lo cual me encadenaron. Oí luego al capitán diciéndole a su segundo que estaba más loco que una cabra, y que debía permanecer en confinamiento hasta que estuviera bastante racional para dar una explicación veraz sobre mí.

Finalmente después de muchas suplicas y muchas promesas, me quitaron las cadenas. Y entonces y allí decidí inventar una cierta historia que satisficiera al capitán, y no referirme nunca más a mi viaje a la tierra “del dios humeante”, por lo menos hasta que estuviera seguro entre amigos.

                                                 Willis George Emerson, El Dios humeante

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The Secret of the Earth

 

We halted only at long intervals, and generally in thinly settleddistricts, to overhaul our machinery, or stretch our legs upon theground. The amount of territory covered during that week was vast, the air ship being kept at her highest speed. We crossed rivers, great lakes, or inland seas. We saw sights well worth recording, and marvels which we longed to investigate, and would indeed have done so were it not for our utter inability to communicate with the people; and perhaps some day, even if we should not return, it will be worth to write a fuller description of all the wonders we encountered in that strange inner world; that world which, since the dawn of creation, has been so close at hand, and yet whose existence we have never suspected.

Far to the south we crossed a body of water so closely studded withmountain islets, that many were connected by bridges, and nowhere could there have been a thousand yards between them, and this for a distance of five hundred miles. And yet here were evidences of a past civilization, in the deserted old castles, and rock carvings which abounded among them. We hovered close above some of the largest of these relics, without eliciting a response from a human being. Manifestly they had been deserted for untold ages. The golden trumpethad vanished from these desolate halls, neither was there any sign of life within.

A change was coming over the air. There was a chill and the light was fading from the sky.

"We must prepare for cold weather ahead!" said Torrence.

And then we went down into the cabin and made everything as taut and snug as possible. The hatching to the upper deck was closed, and every crevice carefully chinked. Our portholes were fastened and screwed down. Our ventilators arranged, so that the outer air could only reach us through coils of heated pipe; and if the air ship did not fail us, it seemed impossible that we should suffer in our rapid flight across the frozen sea of the Antarctic regions.

 

Gradually our disk of heavenly light receded toward the north; and it was clear that we were rapidly approaching the south polar opening. At last it sank entirely out of sight, leaving us in a chill, rapidly closing twilight.

 

By the time our preparations were completed, it became necessary to start the heaters, put on warmer clothing, and confine ourselves to the cabin. We had bade a final adieu to the summer land, and the rigor of the south polar regions was ahead. Darkness was coming down upon us, as well as the cold, and occasional masses of floating ice were seen from time to time.

At last the stars became visible, the first we had seen in more than amonth, and then there shot up into the sky a great pink light—the_aurora australis_—to remind us of the bright and happy land behind. At that minute I felt a yearning to return; for there was the world of dreams, of poetry, rest, beauty and contentment.

"Torrence," I said, shuddering at the thought of what lay ahead, "how long will it take us to cross this horrible sea of ice and darkness?"

"If we press her, we can do a thousand miles a day. You can figure for yourself. But this region of cold and starlight need not disturb you, for we can dash through it like a meteor. Indeed, were it not for the danger of unlooked for eminences, we might sleep until reaching the land of the sun. But that, of course, cannot be, as a constant lookout through the forward port will be necessary."

The vessel had been furnished with a powerful headlight, which cast a dazzling illumination among the mirror-like surfaces beneath; and as we sat staring into the trembling path, constantly stretching away before us, we felt indeed, as Torrence had suggested, like the parasites of an earth-bound meteor, traversing these regions of ice and darkness in a single night.

 

Our cabin lamp was lit, and we were stationed at the forward lookout Torrence glanced at the speed indicator.

"Seventy miles an hour!"

I was startled. A mishap at such an awful rate of transit would smash

us into a thousand atoms, and the news of our discovery be lost to the

earth. But my brother was calm and unconcerned; he had no misgiving

while one or the other of us remained on watch.

"It beats the Erebus and the Terror," I answered nervously, peering into the marvelous vista ahead, and the rapidly extending pathway dancing and flickering in the wonderful headlight.

Fresh panoramas were constantly unrolled in the glimmering distance. There were scenes that were strange and alarming. Pinnacles and ridges of ice—autochthonous—awful—would compel us to rise to sudden and terrible heights, to clear them. It was like a steeple chase on a gigantic scale. We were leaping fences, and clearing ditches; only the fences were ice masses hundreds of feet in height, and the ditches horrible chasms whose depths could not be guessed. On and on we flew, through these regions of mystery, which the most daring explorer had never even approached, and without a flying machine it seemed likely he would never penetrate. We did not suffer from the cold, wrapped up in our cozy cabin, although our spirit thermometer, which was placed directly outside one of the windows, where we could see it, marked a temperature as low as -eighty degrees. It was an atmosphere of death, and fortunately we were hermetically sealed against it.

"I propose," said Torrence, "that our next voyage into the interior ofour planet be made through the south polar opening at midsummer, about January, to enable us to see what kind of country we are passing through!"

 

"That is easy enough to see now," I answered; "ice mountains, ice oceans, ice continents, icebergs, ice valleys of death; surely no living creature could exist in such icy solitudes, in such unutterable cold!"

"But you must remember this ice belt is probably not nearly so wide during the summer months. There is doubtless a change."

"Remember the Palæocrystic Sea!" I suggested.

"True," he answered, "but remember it was narrow, and that we have never seen it in the winter."

"Of all our experiences," I observed reflectively, "the present situation strikes me as the most remarkable, skurrying through these frozen regions like a comet, and spying out the land by the light of a candle. It is surely not the method most in vogue among pioneers!"

"It has certainly not been done frequently before," he answered; "but now that we know the way, a trip to the interior by either of the poles may become a desirable pleasure excursion; in fact it may grow into a fashionable fad, who can tell, and the future may develop——!"

He stopped suddenly, and we both became transfixed with horror at the sight that confronted us.

Directly below, but standing on the very pinnacle of one of the ice hummocks, was a human being, revealed by our headlight. The man was facing us, and waving his arms furiously. Could anything be more blood-curdling than such a sight in such a place? No ship or sled, nor indication of life was visible, save this solitary, deserted creature. The region was impenetrable to human beings; we knew it; it seemed incredible, and yet there it was, a living man, and alone, in this untraversed, and untraversable wilderness of ice.

Such solitude, such isolation, such an impossible fact, was like a sudden vision of the supernatural.

                                          Charles Willing Beale, The Secret of the Earth

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A strange manuscript found in a copper cylinder

 

How long I slept I do not know. My sleep was profound, yet disturbed by troubled dreams, in which I lived over again all the eventful scenes of the past; and these were all intermingled in the wildest confusion. The cannibals beckoned to us from the peak, and we landed between the two volcanoes. There the body of the dead sailor received us, and afterward chased us to the boat. Then came snow and volcanic eruptions, and we drifted amid icebergs and molten lava until we entered an iron portal and plunged into darkness. Here there were vast swimming monsters and burning orbs of fire and thunderous cataracts falling from inconceivable heights, and the sweep of immeasurable tides and the circling of infinite whirlpools; while in my ears there rang the never-ending roar of remorseless waters that came after us, with all their waves and billows rolling upon us. It was a dream in which all the material terrors of the past were renewed; but these were all as nothing when compared with a certain deep underlying feeling that possessed my soul--a sense of loss irretrievable, an expectation of impending doom, a drear and immitigable despair.

In the midst of this I awoke. It was with a sudden start, and I lookedall around in speechless bewilderment. The first thing of which I was conscious was a great blaze of light--light so lately lost, and supposed to be lost forever, but now filling all the universe--bright, brilliant, glowing bringing hope and joy and gladness, with all the splendor of deep blue skies and the multitudinous laughter of ocean waves that danced and sparkled in the sun. I flung up my arms and laughed aloud. Then I burst into tears, and falling on my knees, I thanked the Almighty Ruler of the skies for this marvellous deliverance.

Rising from my knees I looked around, and once more amazement overwhelmed me. I saw a long line of mountains towering up to immeasurable heights, their summits covered with eternal ice and snow. There the sun blazed low in the sky, elevated but a few degrees above the mountain crests, which gleamed in gold and purple under its fiery rays. The sun seemed enlarged to unusual dimensions, and the mountains ran away on every side like the segment of some infinite circle. At the base of the mountains lay a land all green with vegetation, where cultivated fields were visible, and vineyards and orchards and groves, together with forests of palm and all manner of trees of every variety of hue, which ran up the sides of the mountains till they reached the limits of vegetation and the regions of snow and ice.

     

             James De Mille, A strange manuscript found in a copper cylinder

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