Recruitment

There are those who swim in dark passages with only enough room to kick their feet. A small bioluminescent light is equipped to their helmets. The water is thick with silt, and anything an elbow’s length ahead may as well be the night sky.

In these channels, the concept of sky is unknown and air is an alien. Everyone has a plan for coming back, but no one ever makes it. They run out of air, or get stuck or get lost. Signals are impossible to maintain. But we do know there are other things down there. Things that have light that we did not bring into these pipes of the Earth.

The temperature of the water reads what one would expect at that depth. Although from certain videos, something other than temperature is the threat. Something that lures people to go deeper than they planned. An unexpected light up ahead, alluringly dancing, seduces the divers further.

Whatever lives down there is able to retreat at a marvelous pace, almost like the current of the water (which we cannot measure) has been reversed, and our own pair of eyes follows this light into the darkness, until it vanishes. We lose the signal. What our agents may encounter after that, no one knows.

We’ve attempted sonar mapping. The same technology that allowed us to locate massive underground catacombs of ancient kings. The signal is distorted through the water, that much we can plan for and alter our calculations accordingly. But our predictive maps don’t always match what our divers find down there. Paths that are unmarked appear in the side of the channel. Where our sound finds walls, our divers find deeper darkness to penetrate.

Sometimes they stop for no reason. That is, until we created a semaphore of hand signals. They signal the noise. Or a noise. They are divers so they should hear nothing but the sound of their own breathing apparatus, but the signing is unmistakable. We don’t show these videos to the other divers in order to test if the original ones were delusional. But several divers have all communicated the same signal without being made aware of the actions of their past contemporaries.

They stop. Their vision turns from side to side, illuminating the same monochrome brown walls we know so well and that we all see when we close our eyes. Then the frantic hand signal, over and over again in front of the camera. They want to make sure we can see it. Then, with only the silt in the water to judge for speed, they zip off into the darkness and we lose the signal after seven seconds maximum.

We of course cannot talk to them during this. No method of radio communication penetrates these mediums. That’s why we invented the semaphore. But even if we could talk to them, what would we say? ‘Yes, we knew about the noise but we didn’t tell you until it’s too late, don’t follow it?’ that would be rather unnerving. Would we tell them that others have gone before them and never come back? Of course not. No one would go.

Although it’s not really a choice of whether we go or not. It’s what we do with the urge. Despite expectation, those of us on the outside, we believe, feel the pull the strongest. We theorized the ‘beneath’ worlds. We mapped the channels with our equipment, and we always knew that we must do more. But we sublimate the urge by ‘suggesting’ a curiosity to those we know with adventurous compulsions.

We suggest a taste of worlds beyond. Of fame and glory. Of escape. Whatever will hook them the first time. And there is, of course, no expectation of pursuit. No obligation. We offer a free taste of whatever they don’t know they need, until we give it to them.

In no time at all, they have sacrificed everything to train with us. They are unrecognizable to their families and friends. Unemployable to all but us. And the only thought keeping them alive is their insatiable hunger to explore our darkness.

We find them anywhere. A ‘chance’ meeting in a parking lot. An invitation to go bowling. A spilled drink. A liked article of clothing. Age, stature, is of no consequence. Despite their seeming limitations, the channels accept all.

This missive as well, will go somewhere and maybe it will spur a reader, a friend or spouse of a reader. A child of a reader, into some sort of action that would never have been taken otherwise. Maybe all this talk of uncovering the truly alien beneath our feet is a hodgepodge of nonsense meant to lure a friend of a relative of a friend into some other twisted tangle.

No matter. The truth, plainly stated is ignored, and it’s only the alien lights in an un-swimmable darkness that will hold our attention.