Corporeal Passage: Chapter 16: Outside the Node
by Jeff RandEthan struggled in the darkness with his diminished eyesight to make sense of the vehicle before him - at least he thought it to be some sort of vehicle. As he approached it, he was not sure if indeed it was one. Perhaps it was simply a stationery dome. It was in the shape of an elongated hemisphere, nearly 10 feet in diameter and about eight feet tall. However, there was an open hatch, and the structure appeared to be resting on spherical wheels. Standing at the hatch entrance was a tall man.
"Meet Eli," said Ron, as he introduced Ethan to the man.
Ethan offered his right hand to the man, but the man responded by sticking his tongue out at Ethan.
"You best get into the hemix. We don't have much time," continued Ron.
Ethan stepped through the hatch to enter a dimly lit dome-covered enclosure. Ethan was not surprised that there was no source of light other than the glowing dome itself. Inside there was a small table in the center of the space with a hutch above. Several tall bucket chairs circled the table. Although his vision was still not in focus without his glasses, he recognized his son sitting in one of the chairs. Ethan proceeded to sit in a chair on the opposite side of the table, while Ron and Eli quickly entered the chamber.
Eli promptly closed the hatch before moving by Ethan to the chair furthest from the hatch. He sat in the chair and swiveled it, with his back now to the table. Momentarily, the light from the top of the dome increased. Moreover, images appeared along the entire surface circling the chamber, as if someone had just turned on the outside floodlights. Ethan was astonished at the sight.
Leu was quick to note his father's reaction. "It is just chromite images showing us what is outside the hemix," said Leu. "It is actually dark outside, but we can see everything around us."
Ethan learned that his chair would turn, as he now faced the entrance hatch in the direction of Zero Node. From the outside he could appreciate its immense size. The Node was shaped much like the hemix he had just entered, as a slightly elongated hemisphere. However, it was several hundred feet tall and solid black with no hint of any radiance. This circular structure was surrounded by the moat. When he turned to look in other directions, he could see rock cliffs rising high above the Node.
Although one cannot detect smooth continuous motion, the jerk to accelerate from a dead stop was observed. Ethan faced Eli who was apparently driving the hemix toward a rock wall. As the speed increased, the vehicle approached the wall. Ethan braced himself for the collision, but the hemix made an abrupt turn to the right. Ahead was a narrow canyon. The hemix entered a winding road through the canyon.
The events of the last few months made no sense since the experience of the corporeal passage, and Ethan was eager for answers. He believed that the earth was a spheroid composed of three layers - crust, mantle, and core. In his later years he learned that there was an outer and an inner core separated by the Bullen discontinuity. While the outer core was chiefly liquid iron, it was believed that the extreme pressure inside the discontinuity produced a solid inner core. Perhaps there was a deeper understanding, and the Bullen Discontinuity was a boundary to a habitable zone inside the earth. And there were people living inside the earth. But how did they get here? What was their source of power? Certainly, there would be perpetual darkness. How could they be so advanced or cruel, as was the case for his incarceration? Were there some unknown, but ancient technological developments?
He thought about the corporeal passage. Perhaps it represented a shaft to the center of the earth. Could the ancients have discovered it and created an advanced civilization inside the earth? Then they built Zero Node to travel through this passage to the surface, at least to the safety at the floor of the ocean. Here they lived contented as they studied the cultures on the earth's surface. However, it was the pandemic of 2020 brought by an outsider that caused the death of the old ones, and the youngsters who were children of the surface did not understand how to return home inside the earth. It all made perfect sense now; he just needed to confirm a few details. He wished that he could share his discovery with the other Winter Campers who often joked about living inside the earth.
Ethan marveled at Eli's ability to guide the hemix through the narrow canyon. The speed of the vehicle increased, and Ethan found his pack flying off the table when the vehicle made a sharp turn.
"I think you'll want to secure your pack," remarked Leu after the mishap, acting as if he were an experienced traveler in a hemix rather than one who had arrived just minutes before his father.
After several sharp turns, the hemix came to an abrupt stop. Looking at the curved surface inside the hemix beyond his son, Ethan observed a waterfall plunging into the canyon - at least it was the scene of one being projected on the window of the hemix. A torrent was rushing through the narrow slot canyon flooding the path ahead. Ethan assumed that Eli would have to turn back and find another way out. Instead, Eli engaged the controls elevating the hemix before heading directly into a river now rushing through the narrow canyon.
The hemix moved through the water as if it were a feature in a water amusement park, handling the turns and boulder obstacles without incident. The river trip ended quickly as the canyon widened and the water took its own course, where the narrow road was exposed once again. Before the vehicle resumed its full speed, Ethan was sure he saw plants growing along the river.
"Did you see the plants by the river?" he asked his son.
"Yes. They looked like miniature palm trees," said Leu.
"Well, it doesn't make sense. How can there be any sunlight here for them to grow?"
"I don't know about that. Perhaps the images in the hemix are not real or at least not showing us our surroundings."
Ron overheard the conversation and turned his seat to face Ethan, "I assure you the plants outside the vehicle are real."
"Okay. Then you've got some explaining to do. We are tired of being subjects of your insane experiments deep inside the earth," declared Ethan.
"I am sorry you don't understand it, and Eli will explain it when the time comes."
"Well, how about now?"
Ron ignored Ethan's plea. The canyon had widened into a valley filled with more of the miniature palm trees. Eli maneuvered the hemix in a turn to face a wall surrounding the valley and beyond. The wall was a deep purple shade, and the river appeared to flow under it. After the hemix parked for a moment, a small opening appeared in the wall, allowing the vehicle to exit the valley.
Ethan found it difficult to comprehend the scene ahead, while Leu was simply amazed. Eli stopped the vehicle after passing through this gate and faced his occupants.
"I don't understand how all this can exist inside the core of the earth?" Ethan inquired of Eli.
Finally, Eli began to speak, as he struggled with the right words in a feminine voice, "You have got it all wrong. The truth is quite the opposite."