"A tall tale, completely original, yet, unlike stories told around the campfire in mining country, where caves lead to unknown passages, here the vividly real mixes with the utterly fantastic. Will good prevail where gold makes some men mad? And who are these people who live beneath the earth, seeking to control our destiny above?" Will Staple, poet, I Hate the Men You Sleep With
Table of Contents
Shelter in a Storm
The Happy Miners
Ancient Maps and Timeless Passages
Across the Water
Old Secrets Come Alive
Old Friends ... and Rivals
Here Comes Trouble
The Neglected Contingent
Bring It All Home
Have you even been inside a tunnel - like an old mining tunnel or a cave? The mountains of California are full of them. I think of them as catacombs of forgotten folklore, testaments to the tenacity and persistence of humans. Those are the ones made by humans.
Nature has created her own catacombs, an intricate web-work of womb-like passages. Every so often one of these subterranean treasure troves is revealed to us bumblers upon the surface - place like the one that was found in New Mexico, "Lechuguilla," I think it was called. All I know about it is what I read in National Geographic, but what an amazing discovery. To think that just below the surface of the Earth there exists a miraculous world of enchantment never before seen by humans. Or so we think.
Then there are the caves and passages that are unknown to modern societies but were clearly inhabited centuries ago by our predecessors. Wasn't it only a few years ago that some scuba divers in the Mediterranean Sea swam up through a submerged tunnel into a chamber full of ancient paintings on the rock walls?
Discoveries like these are fuel for my imagination, inspiration for countless hours of wonderment. Just how much is there that we don't know? Archeologists around the world are constantly finding bits and pieces that help reveal secrets of our past. Maybe I should have been an archeologist, but I was just too restless to stay in school.
In the foothills of Northern California there is a mining company that is proposing to go in and explore some of the old tunnels leftover from the great gold rush of the 1800s. Apparently there is a main shaft that goes down close to eight thousand feet. That is astounding when you think that the elevation at the opening is only around twenty-five hundred to three thousand feet. That means the shaft goes close to five thousand feet below sea level; and all the way down, at intervals I can't now recall, there are horizontal shafts that branch out for exploration of various soil and rock composition.
What intrigues me is the possibility that some of those tunnels and ancient passages might not really end where we think they do. What if you came to the end of one of these, to a seemingly solid rock wall, and, quite by accident, you leaned against it, and it spun around like a bookcase in one of those old mystery movies? What if there was a whole world behind that rock wall?
I'm not talking about trolls and gnomes and elves, although it's quite possible they exist also. I'm talking more along the lines of people just like you and me, a mere offshoot of our own culture. Wouldn't it be outrageous to discover a race of people who live both underground and above and who have integrated so cleanly into our own society that they go largely unnoticed?
If it were so, and if all those daydreams really did come true, what might we learn?
Pelican Pond (an imprint of Blue Dolphin Publishing), 1994
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