A thin layer of fog hovered just inches above the cold, muddy ground. This misty veil swallowed water droplets birthed from between crevices high a top, as they plummeted through the mysterious cloud, before absorbing and disappearing into the soil below. The cavernous space encapsulating me acted to amplify the sounds of the free falling droplets slapping against the saturated earthen ground. A symphony of ghostly, aliens sounds echoing and reverberating within the enclosed space played tricks upon my mind, as human-like voices could seemingly be distinguished between the chatter of the raindrops. Amid the liquid concerto I continued forward, cautiously walking further into the dark abyss as the low hanging fog swirled around my legs like murky swamp water within a toxic bog.
Beneath my feet I could feel the ground become rigid and uneven, as if scoured with potholes and small depressions. In a swatting motion I waved my arms just above hip level. The motion creating enough of a draft to clear the low level fog blanketing my boots, revealing below dozens of natural rain eroded channels carved within the viscous mud floor. It appeared the water infiltrating in from above had created these miniature rivers below which served as the natural drainage flow for the influx of water runoff incessantly dripping in from above. From my standing perspective it almost appeared as if I was soaring high above the Grand Canyon looking down at the intricate network of ridges and grooves creating the natural wonder. Occasionally I noticed small bits of debris would clog one of the channels causing the water to dam up and form large puddles in low lying areas before the puddles too began to overflow into yet another series of rills snaking through the viscid soil before disappearing back underneath the blanket of fog and into the lurking darkness.
As I traversed deeper into the void I clenched my leg muscles for the tunnel floor was jagged and slippery, I did not want to further risk injury, for I'd certainly never be found if I fell and became trapped in here. The channels too acted as unpredictable hazards, zigzagging about like trip-lines all across the ground hidden within the darkness. I realized however they all seemed to drain toward a central point within an unknown area as the water was flowing ahead of me at a gradual speed. I used this knowledge as a means of keeping my direction and orientation straight, as I pushed further and further into the unknown depths of the underground.
Then without warning, a high pitch deafening squeal filled the hollow tunnel. The sound echoed and bounced off every surface creating a chaotic and nauseating pulse of sound waves all overlapping one another, playing like a sick orchestra led by an demented conductor. My heart was pounding like a panicked bird trying to break free from within my rib cage. I was terrified, not out of uncertainty however, but because I recognized this sound. Immediately I stepped back a few feet and upon doing so and in near unison, the alarm too stopped squealing.
It was my radiation detector I had clipped to my backpack. Something directly in front of me was causing it to go berserk, but I could see nothing as I illumined the area with my flashlight; no strange hunk of radioactive metal nor apocalyptic fissure leading straight into the center of the Earth. Again I waved away the fog obscuring my feet to the side, but still nothing to see except the cold scarred ground and my muddied boots plastered with silt, caked on nearly an inch thick. Perhaps it was me I thought, maybe I had stepped into something radioactive?
I slid my backpack off from my shoulders and unlatched my radiation detection meter. Within my fist I grasped the device tightly while slowly inching my arm into the darkness, extending my wrist straight ahead, away from my chest. With my arm fully extended, reaching about three feet out, the meter again began to scream, the frequency of the sound waves emanating from the alarm sent ripples scurrying over the surface of the water pooled up in puddles below. In a single panicked fueled gesture I quickly I pulled my fist clenched arm back toward my body and just as fast as I did, the alarm again stopped. I looked at the meter display illuminated by a shitty green backlight. I could just briefly make out a reading of 60.00 millisieverts per hour [mSv/hr] (a relatively high reading) before the digits tumbled back down and stabilized out at a benign 0.05 mSv/hr.
With the meter in hand I outstretched my arm again, but this time I walked off center and toward the edge of the tunnel wall while continuing forward attempting to avoid the area which sent the meter screaming. This time nothing, no blaring alarm and radiation levels remained within the normal zone. All I could gather was that something direct center of the tunnel from where I had been standing was causing levels to spike up to a dangerous high. The source however remained to me unidentifiable, likely buried beneath the ground yet shallow and centralized enough to trip the meter into panic mode. Appearing to have circumvented the dangerous emission levels by hugging the side of the tunnel, I felt confident enough to continue further. I made sure however to meticulously monitor the display, this time clipping the device to a side belt loop on the front of my jean pants.
Unfortunately, I was only able to continue about 200 feet further into the tunnel as I reached a massive pile of dirt which appeared to have been deliberately dumped and piled up to the ceiling of the tunnel, extending out to both side walls and gradually sloping down toward the bottom, thus blocking my access from continuing forward. Strangely, there were scour mark all about the pile, as if something had hurriedly tried to climb over or perhaps dig through. However it didn't appear that anything had fallen from above to cause such marks and there was no debris field below. The soil making up the pile was clay-like in texture and extremely slick. I myself tried to climb up and over the pile to see if I could squeeze over the top, but the clayey soil was so saturated and slippery that I could not get a grip with my boots and I started to slide back down, leaving behind eerily similar scar impressions within the soil. I began to fear that perhaps the pile was placed for good reason, acting as a massive dam or maybe was just the result of a natural collapse, holding back an unforeseen underground lake of water from flushing me out. I decided it safe to just turn around at this point, before I wound up disturbing that which could ultimately become that last thing I would ever see.
Leaning against the abrasive rocky tunnel wall with one arm, I was able to successively balance myself and hop forward some distance all the while retracing my mud sunken footprints back around the mysterious radioactive source and toward the narrow crevice I had entered from. On this return stroll back toward the entrance I was now walking against the flow of the water and it had worked to completely wash away the remainder of my footprint trail. No worries however as my flashlight still shown strong and I could already begin to make out what was now just a tiny distant pin head of light ahead representing the sunlight pouring in through the narrow fissure I had contorted my body though in order to enter into this radioactive hell-hole. I hadn't much further to walk but again my mind began to warp the sound of the raindrops into voices and I truly began to spook myself. Then I heard my name, I swear! It was low and monotone, but it was my name. No! Just the echoing of the water drops I tried to convince myself. But then I heard it repeat again. "Justin, Justin" the voice seemed to be speaking directly to me but from a distance. The voice was so discernible and human, it sent goosebumps running across my arms and legs. Now slightly panicked I began to walk quickly toward the light at the end of the tunnel. But I could only continue ahead so fast as the mud acted like a vacuum to my boots, sucking them into the ground with each step as if I were walking across quicksand.
I was waving my flashlight around like a mad man when a beam caught a red drop enter one of the narrow channels directly under my feet, quickly dispersing into the water like food dye before being swept away between my legs by the flowing water. Then another red drop, followed by another and another. I slid my pointer finger across my nose to kill an itch, when it was then I noticed that my finger was completely covered in blood originating from my nose which was profusely bleeding! Radiation poisoning I worried! Immediately I looked to my meter display only to see that it was blank. Hectically I fumbled to try and turn it back on flipping the meter over only to realize that the back cover was missing. The fucking batteries had fallen out, it must have been when I slid down the huge dirt pile blocking the tunnel just behind me. My meter was completely useless now and I certainly couldn't risk potential additional exposure by turning around to fetch the batteries. My best bet was to continue back tracking as fast as possible toward the exit, hoping to avoid any additional hidden pockets of potential radiation.
I slugged forward but that pin head of light I thought was the exit, it seemed to be heading toward me now, flickering and growing larger, all the while moving in closer. "Justin, Justin, Justin", as clear as day I heard the voice speak my name three times! Someone was absolutely calling for me now, I was certain of it. But no one knew I was here. Then the light ahead, it split into three separate sources. I watched it happen, witnessed it with my very own two eyes. My legs were quivering at this point, as sloshing and pulling my body through the sticky mud was taking its toll. It was clear the three light sources were absolutely headed straight toward me. It was as if the lights were just levitating in mid-air like some type of military aircraft about to whizz by overhead. It seemed that it was the lights uttering my name, blinking twice for each syllable, "Justin, Justin." As the lights approached closer I could decipher they were indeed floating, seeming to defy physics, existing as large as paper plates, and hovering like a drone just mere feet in front of my face.
And there they hovered silently, within arms reach, for just a few seconds before consolidating into a single larger floating ball and imploding into a blinding white beacon of light which illuminated the entire tunnel and knocked me to the ground and onto my side. It was like a silent explosion of brilliance and in that moments time I could see everything clearly. I watched in awe as the lone ball of light again separated into three entities before pausing in midair then abruptly speeding off behind me and shooting directly into and through the giant dirt pile, piercing it as if it were non existent. The only trace they left behind were cut marks in the dirt and additional channels across the ground, as well as a strange neon red contrail which slowly began to diffuse into the atmosphere.
I struggled to get back up onto my two feet. "Justin, Justin, Justin," the voice now became increasingly louder and stern, despite the lights having disappeared. "Hey man, are you all right?" This phrase slowly began to make sense in my brain, summonsing me to open my eyes as I woke up laying on my side. My head was half buried in a wet pile of decomposing leaves and beside my left arm I could see the four AA batteries and back cover from my radiation meter scattered about. Out of confusion I rolled over on to my back. "Dude are you good?" a now familiar voice yelled down to me. As my eyes readjusted to the light I could see it was my friend Tim. "Yeah man, I think so" I responded, "What the hell happened?" I asked Tim. "We were just about to enter the tunnel and you slipped down the embankment about ten feet and you must have knocked yourself out. It looked like you hit your face pretty hard on a rock too" Tim answered. "At first you weren't responding even though I was repeating your name over and over and flashing my MagLight beam at your eyes, trying to get you to respond" Tim exclaimed. "Holy shit man, how long was I knocked out for?" I asked. "Only a minute at most dude" he answered. "You sure you're good, Justin?". "Yea I'll be fine" I yelled back up to Tim as I wiped the crusty blood from the top of my lip. As I guess I had bashed my nose during the fall down the embankment.
"Alright awesome man, you had me panicked for a moment, I thought I was gonna have to call the fuckin' pigs or something" Tim jokingly uttered as a cigarette dangled from his mouth and a cloud of smoke silhouetted his presence above me. Quickly I scurried up to my feet again while hurriedly placing the batteries back into my radiation meter. Tim then yellowed down to me, "when you can safely reach this shovel handle grab it and toss it into the entrance, but don't hit yourself in the face with it, I don't need you knocking yourself out again" he joked. "We are gonna need the shovel in order to try and dig out this massive pile blocking the tunnel about half-way in". "I was in here by myself last week when I discovered it" Tim continued, "so I wanted to come prepared when I brought you, as I think between the both of us we'll have the man power to dig a passage all the way through to the other side."
"But we gotta be quick because last week I found new looking batteries inside the tunnel along with a plastic cover that looked to be from some type of meter, just at the base of the pile" he informed me. "So we're not the only ones who have been here." he continued, "Hopefully who ever it was hasn't beaten us to the dig because I found this fucking place and wanna be the first one though." Tim responded just as we both switched on our headlamps and entered into the dark abyss.
Upon squeezing through the narrow opening and entering into the mouth of the tunnel I felt the temperature within instantly drop and a damp haze quickly engulfed my presence. Yet through the mist I could still see Tim's light from his headlamp illuminating through the tunnel as he was trailing just behind me. Ahead, a thin layer of fog hovered just inches above the cold, muddy ground. The misty veil swallowed water droplets birthed from between crevices high a top, as they plummeted through the mysterious cloud, before absorbing and disappearing into the soil below. "Yea, what do you need Justin?", Tim yelled back toward me. "Huh, what are you talking about", I yelled back. "Oh shit, never mind, I thought I heard you saying my name, must just be the echo of the rain drops, I swear I always think I hear voices in here", Tim responded.