Something Moving Below the Skin of the World

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Unearthing it was, for all intents and purposes, sour sweet. Those involved in the excavation – my team, the resident witnesses of the anomaly, and I, all of whom I will go on to speak for, as though I were them (forgive me this, for there were many a moment where I sincerely felt I was, and still am, them, rather than I) – were not decided on whether the found objects were in fact the artifacts of an artificer or…err…artificers of themselves.

This record may not be believed, as it is full of inconsistencies and bad science, but I’ve learnt that this world is so strange that anything may happen, or may not happen – all things are possible, and that’s what should be understood by the reader, if nothing else.

Because I could see it with your eyes, I now say to the young discredited scientist that I was, I find myself stepping from the place I keep them in my mind.

The site, located in unexpected topography, was the conundrum. There had been no known culture in this region to have constructed what was found. What drew our attention to the place were the reports coming out of an estranged hermitage in the Northern tundra of Kaalas. This person, who had lived a reclusive existence near the tree line, claimed to have witnessed, and had been tracking, what looked to be nothing more than the discarded remnants of a glacial migration. Enormous alienated sections of the Kyroc Mountains, sprawled across the outback, had changed their primordial resting place. The rest of the hermited family knew the story, though only the father fervently believed it to be true.

Working as a fisherman in a fishing town much closer to the Nadacanean border, the father invested enough over the course of those hard working years to take his indigenous wife and he to the remotest of places, the home they would occupy and dwell, and peacefully raise a family in. Viciously harassed for being together in the town, they feared for the safety of their future offspring. There was no identity for a mixed child in the fishing town. Out on the ocean, the labour was grueling. Most shifts depleted whatever life force he had; the power of the sea and those that lived by it weighed on him as if he were at the bottom of that cruel water. But on those damp days, when his hands were rubbed red and swollen by salt, you could imagine how he would fantasize about the day he would take his leave and abandon the harsh reality of society. 

The family would make their seasonal journeys, well before any attempt to live there year round, bringing with them preparatory materials and supplies for the construction of a miniature settlement. The logistics needed to be well thought out. When the final spot was found, after many seasons of surveying potential areas, guided by maps with meaningless names, they said to us that they knew, somehow, that it was theirs, that the ancient Nadacanean shield rocks held the future.

After their daughter was born, they made the jump into nowhere. It was ready and waiting. Meat was gathered in the hunt and smoked, fish was salted and stored away for the winter freeze. An icy blue-green stream meandered nearby. The log cabin was well insulated. Wood was chopped and dried for burning. They prostrated themselves to the isolation of the great outdoors, and found that the land provided.

Time went. Another child was born, and the mother educated the children both. The children were taught of the extreme freedom they had. That, what their parents gave up to move here was a confused collective idea of choice, to be this removed from the larger group’s bad decisions was to alleviate them of the debt to nature that was deferred over more and more generations. Society had gigantism, and it was better to start off small and reclaim what you can handle than to be borne a giant and monstrous. Not with guilt, but appreciation. That’s why we live here, the mother would say to us.

The third child was a stillborn. It was buried on the top of a hill within a hill. It’s only marker was a glacial stone that gravely guarded over it. It was never documented, and the path to the burial ground, worn in by the tread of the family alone, would have lead to nowhere significant for a stranger that happened upon it.

When the children came of age, they left for the city. Looking back on their rearing as a bewitching experience. Though with each visit, they returned to that piece of land with an intimate knowledge of it, an incomparable wisdom that those they met in the city did not have for anything. There were stories stabbed into the sappy bark of the nearby tree trunks and drawings scratched into the boulders. Traces of their time spent here was imprinted everywhere like an externalized memory.

The father was like a bear. He had his habits of survival ingrained, automatically changing his behaviour with the change of his environment. The relationship his wife and he had was a strong and serene quiet, and everyday he would sigh with the relief that comes to those who have built their own escape. He too knew the places where his children played, the secret writings on the trees, and the graffiti on the boulders. This familiarity with the land, that one only gets when working it and watching the growth of the soil, was what scared him all the more when it betrayed him.

There had been a severe bear attack before the winter. The grizzly had wondered in close and he had to teach it that it was not the bear’s place to pass through. The man was injured by doing this, for the bear was hungry and defensive. He did not kill it, nor did it kill him. Now that the snow was on the thaw, he decided he would make sure the bear was no longer roaming, as it was dangerous to share hunting grounds with such a predator. He was armed, though he never came upon it. Maybe it is still hibernating, he would later say he wondered.

It was on this trip that he noticed many of the boulders, that his children had played on in their youth, were missing. And where they had been, there was no indication of not only their leaving, but their being there at all.

Was he a person in his right mind?

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They had all the same drawings they had before their displacement, only the stones were not where they were before last winter. He looked the rock over, touched its cleaved surface. It resembled an elongated head. The stone head, in the zenith of that northern midday light, had the slightest similarity to a face, a face half buried in the ground, as it was, like a swimmer rising from the water below, it rose up from the earth, as if to breath. Not a human face, but a misshapen arrangement of coarse bumps and grooves and porous pockets that used shadow play in a not dissimilar way. At any rate, when he looked at it, the specialized areas of his brain that were designed to recognize such patterns must have tingled.    

This frustrated the old man miserably. How could an impossible thing such as this be the case? How should he interpret this without doubting his sanity? His wife had looked at him with dark eyes the day he finally came to point of telling her. She could speak to him about what he didn’t want to hear, but instead, she remained noncommittal. People are a special kind of superstitious animal, she would have otherwise thought in silence, if we hadn’t been there to listen.

There were no nearest neighbours. No power lines to carry a message. No grid at all. Once a year they would set out on an annual commute into the closest town to do commerce and communicate with the outside world. It was from there that the word traveled to us.

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“…They move through the earth, as though the layers of densely packed strata, of immobile dirt and clay and minerals, were airy and light and spaciously distributed around them. Something moving below the skin of the world, like titanic stone worms.”

This was what we surmised as the multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, geologists, cartographers, anthropologists, journalists and others that would eventually come to set up an encampment around the tiny log house. The stone heads had now formed a circle around the old couple’s hermitage. There was nine in total. Each stone head was raised to what would be considered their brow, if they were a real head.

“They’re surfacing. All of them started out way, way out there, in the deep brush, wading their way over here from all sorts of direction and, now, have been slowly raising their ugly mugs out of the ground. I know this because I’ve been charting them for the last couple of years, since I found that first misplaced stone head. I marked them all and located them on a map of the reign. Listen–”

(The old man pulled out the map, and on it were the initial coordinates the stone heads had been noticed to move from, and the dotted locations they had moved to since. He connected these dots with lines that ran through them like a constellation. They were all, according to the scale on the map, miles from where they came.)

“–if you follow it on foot, you’ll see that there is nothing displaced by their activity, nothing disturbed. It’s as though the earth was moving with them and not the other way around. An invisible trace, an invisible footprint.”      

When in nowhere, a suggestive sense of another world is all around you. These stone heads came out of a nowhere, carrying that mystified atmosphere with them. When in nowhere, time becomes a nowhen, and you become a nowho and your questions a nowhy and all your explanations a nohow. And at some point, you were a no-one against the no-thing.

These otherworldly entities were errors of the understanding, with only ancestral knowledge able to cut through their shroud of mystery. It seemed that they were moving at a speed relative to our own, but one that was all their own. Imperceptible to the naked eye, like vegetative growth, increment by increment, they were never as you left them. Moving at a different speed is the same as existing in a different place.

The old man told us that they all formerly shared the permafrost grounds beyond the tree line, at a much earlier stage. The rock itself was not a rock. Although it appeared to be some sort of mineral, the surface was really closer to a mature callous and was scratched irregular with scars as most cutting boards get. The geotects, in their unventilated tents, sifted through the samples that, to their surprise, was pseudo-organic. Under the microscope, the matter was blasphemously between a crystalline lattice and fibrous fabric cell structure. It was (not) a mineral and it was (not) a plant. It had a breakage akin to most igneous rocks, but inside the material there was something more sensitive. Some dark machinery was at work.

Nothing grew on it. There was no symbiosis with lichen or moss, or any fungus. The colour was darker during the day, and lightened to an opal during the night, as if for absorption. The texture met force with force, tensing up and becoming heavy. Though, in water, it displayed the opposite effect, becoming as weightless as driftwood and floating like hydrophobic oil. It adopted the conditions around it.

Inside, inside was a chandelier of crystal. Like diamonds in morphology, like salt in structure. We licked our lips, and our mind went. We could taste the flavour of our thoughts. Our tongues had a closer bond with our brains after that. They were a salt mine. And then, in a fortnight or two, the breach in that vault would close over again, the new skin looking as weathered as before.

How far did it go down?

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We excavated as much as was on hand to excavate with. Below the brow of the stone head were other things that one could risk to say represented a kind of figure. Once the ‘head’ was uncovered, a ‘neck’ and ‘torso’ extended veins into the earth as any other mineral deposit would. The outcrop continued well below our ability to dig. We assumed that it was in the shape of a ‘body’, all the way down.

What was most disturbing to deal with was the misdirection that came with being around the objects. After several weeks of bringing it out in this manner, the hole created around it changed its measurements and was slightly inaccurate with each passing day until it was not at all where we had dug. With its shark fin signalling the enormously fearful mass below, it cut through solids like a theoretical physicist would with an equation. We were at a continual loss of orientation, as though this was a property of existing in it’s universe. Part of themselves continued to be somewhere else. To find it was to find it elsewhere, elsewhen.

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Although there had never been a culture recorded in this geopolitical area, some of us began to wonder whether this unexplainable assemblage would later come to us as an abnormal concept or abstraction would.

There were no other objects that came along with it. Actually, nothing was in its wake. Nothing grew near it, the soil was poorer, and other minerals repelled themselves from it, like a reversal of accretion, a de-accretionary force. The original sites they inhabited were impenetrably concreted with ice, and there was no hope of shipping the proper equipment where there were no roads to bring it on. Things had only gotten more curious since we developed our reports. Our conclusions would have to remain strictly hypothetical and axillary to the truth. We took our leave.



Some were suggesting that the things were but a pressurized and thermodynamic sack of organic something or other, that, given the depth and pressure it was put under, generated different minerals that, if the thing was in truth alive, would slowly digest what the lower levels of the earth forced into it. Exposing their head now and then, like marine life that can tolerate the abyss, to alleviate the stress and pressure that come with passing through a deeper time than ours. A submarine of the land, a sub-terran species of whale. A behemoth to the leviathan.

Perhaps they had been carried by the billion year tide that moved up and out of the earth and that in this particular geological period, since the Nadacadean shield is essentially fossilized time exposure, they came in on the surf of active plate tectonics, shoring up with the skyward fangs of the Kyroc Mountains.

As far as its slow movement through solids, we can only imagine that it has some degree of control over the atemporal and aspatial aspects of the amaterial. Not much can be said on this. One crackpot theory, more a joust to the claimants than a contribution to its furtherance, was that whatever their skin was composed of, could, like a chameleon, become something not unlike the space around it, bind to it and manipulate it. In other words, it could give consciousness to matter that was selfless. It made things selfish enough to know.

It was this inadvertent possibility that lead us to the most startling of conclusions, regarding the complex crystalline lattice that we obtained from it. The effects that it had were psychogenic in as much as they allowed thought to be more transparent to thought. This lucidity, claimed by some, was the origin of consciousness. Alternative interpretations of history have been interpreted as a result. Accounts of the titan mythology, for instance, has been considered a fragment of the ancient Greek’s having encountered and possibly fed from the ambrosian fruit of these creatures crystal skull. Besides this, the legends of chthonic daemons of the underworld is undoubtedly suggestive.

Was this the return of the Titans? The face of the world before it was made? In the end, it was written off as an isolated incident.

Correspondence with the old man became tenuous. A year after our departure, he made his pilgrimage to the city. He told us that they had left, the stone heads sunk back into the ground. He couldn’t say when exactly, it being so gradual. They did not return to any of the points on his maps and never would. Before his wife passed, she told him that there was an old story that explained why the land beyond the tree line would not grow vegetation, not because of the temperature of the ground, but because an entire world below our world took away the life force of anything that ventured into its sedimentary atmosphere. A world within a world. Breathing away the growth of the soil. They are said to be responsible for making the days long when they were awake and the nights long when they were asleep and the northern lights were the colours of their dreams.

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I often think of him sitting on a chair, alone, in the forest at the top of one world and the bottom of another. The long days of light, the long days of night, like the motionless motion of those inner worldly beings, arching over him. Smoking his corncob pipe while he looked at the holes that had been desperately dug out by our team, long ago.

What would the creatures have looked like if our team would have finished the project and fully distinguish them apart from the ground? I’m sure the old man would would fantasize about the society they had. Was it like ours? Were the ones here deserters of that society, like he was of his? Under the ground, he pictured them, like a child amused at a colony of ants in an ant farm, embracing one another after travelling great distances, with the heaviness of our world on the shoulders of their own. All he knew was that wherever they were found, the earth began and ended with them. If they could move through what they weren’t, they could be what they were not. The planet grew from them. Extreme things, made from extreme conditions. The survivors of all hours run through the ground.

Making the journey to the small graveyard, where his wife now accompanied her unborn child on that hill in a hill. The stone guardian was no longer there, it had been one of them. From the small gravesite you could see the flatness beyond the treeline. It was a place where time stood still, where everything that had the capacity to keep time was removed. Looking out unto it, an uneasy feeling took hold of him, the same emotions he felt when the stone heads had encircled him years before. That alien emotion of something moving below the skin of the world.

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