Journal Entry — Twenty July 1818
They were naked and hairless. Pale and creepy by some shallow standards I suppose, these tall bipeds of a human resemblance. But strong beyond their narrow, sinewy frames. I happened upon them fathoms deep in the earth while exploring a recent sinkhole that opened up on my property, uncovering at its bottom a shaft of some significant depth. I was thankful that I told no one of its existence, lest word find the authorities and they in their interest of advantage subdue and exploit these peaceful humanoids. Nor did I make mention of my exploratory intent to my partner, for he undoubtedly would have raised a protest.
The creatures welcomed me into their underworld, not at all frightened of me as I of them. Although frightened is an enhancement of word for I never once felt my life threatened, only was I taken by surprise.
These beings, whom I shall call eartheners, encouraged me deeper into the earth. It was an easy, winding, gradual descent, unlike the nearly vertical shaft I rappelled down. The intersecting corridors held a comfortable three abreast and required a moderate crouch only on occasion. After some time we came to a large open area where shelved rock served as climbing benches. I sat at the bottom, beneath an exceedingly high ceiling of glittering chalcedony in what I was soon to see was their theater.
We communicated with our hands and expressions although they spoke a language as mysterious to me as it was beautifully euphonic. From what I deciphered they are one of many groups spread throughout the bowels of the earth in an interconnecting web beneath land and sea. Dare had I misinterpreted, to the earth’s very core.
They were male and female, young and old. No hierarchy did I detect among them, all seemed of equal standing.
You’ll recall I said they were inviting. We ate with fashionable wooden spoons out of intricately carved wooden bowls, both implements an artistic treasure. I ate a hearty soup of tender roots and legumes. No meat of a burrowing animal or any other did I detect — and just as well for I am a not only a vegetarian of strict discipline but abstain from all animal excrements as well. These delicacies they harvested from within the upper cavern walls and among the roots that sprung out, cooked in a bubbling broth made hot from what appeared to my eyes as a manually metered methane tap. As too was their lighting, you may have wondered up to this point about. As I neglected to mention, the caverns were dimly lit. The cuisine had a distinctive and not unpleasant — as might sound, dirt-ish, or rather one should say soil-ish flavor. It was both deliciously satisfying and revitalizing. The water we drank was the purest I have ever tasted, served and kept cool in cups of hollowed-out stones.
One accustomed to more elegant living might assume these meager means creatures were an ignorant, primitive sort, and one would be wrong. While they had not the luxuries afforded us living under the sun, nor the ornaments of clothing we take such grand pleasure to pompously displaying and which expresses our social status, they were, nonetheless, quite intelligent and attentively bright-eyed. Their perceptions acute, and their movements were as graceful as deliberate. Also, I find that for all appearances they live happy and contented lives whose youth were well mannered. Difficult as may be to comprehend given our own childish, insatiable superfluity.
We continued our pantomime for a time when a troupe took up for our entertainment. These danced with the form and athletic agility unbeknownst man, swirling and turning, twisting and jumping in and out of one another, the likes of which I have never witnessed. As they did, others sang in a melodious, complementary tune that as I write plays in my mind’s ear.
How long I sat spellbound by their performance I do not know, for oddly enough my timepiece had stopped and with no sun to gauge the hour, I was at a loss to say. Suddenly though, as I marveled upon these creatures and my fortune in making their acquaintance, the performers stopped and stood stock still, everyone was quiet. As for me I thought it a part of their act and awaited some grand finale. But no. They all, every one of them cocked their heads ever so slightly and listened to the silence as though the earth whispered a secret only they could hear. The performers then bowed and vacated as orderly as they came. And I was escorted back to the shaft from where I descended and at a more pressing pace from which we came. There, we made farewells.
Exhausted by excitement as well as the arduous climb into the world of the sun, although I met there the moon in its tangerine phase, I slept exceedingly sound that night. Only to be woken briefly by a slight bellow and quiver of the earth.
That morning after an energizing breakfast of berries and fried zucchini, I returned with my gear to the sinkhole only to find it collapsed within itself and its hollow filled to the rim by what must have been the underground spring running beneath the estate. There on the shore was the bowl and spoon I had dined with cradled in a festoon. The gift from my newfound friends the eartheners. Their earthenware, now the enigmatic conversation piece atop my table, its origins to remain my secret.
Peter Karl Heinrich von Schreiner, IV