Updated: Mar 1, 2021
[This story was submitted to my compendium some time ago. Although it fails to reach my standard of veracity – for reasons that will become apparent – I enjoyed the creativity enough to feature it regardless.]
It was called the Kola Superdeep Borehole and it was just there, in the middle of a Russian wasteland, surrounded by a few derelict buildings without even security fencing. Soviet health and safety at its finest.
They had welded the top shut, which was something. I yanked my camping bag up onto my shoulders and kicked debris out of my path as I approached the covered opening. Melissa tottered behind me, tripping and complaining because she had insisted on wearing high heels.
“Is it much further?” she asked. I stopped, turned to give her a withering look and pointed at the sealed top of the borehole. She peered at it. “Is that it?” She sounded disappointed.
“This is the deepest man-made hole on Earth,” I snapped. “How can you be unimpressed?”
She walked over to it in her ridiculous shoes and stared down, her eyes wide and dumb. “But you can’t even see it. It’s all sealed up.”
I closed my eyes and turned away from her for a moment. Taking a deep breath, I tried to calm myself. She might not care but this was an amazing thing that I’d come halfway around the world to see and she wasn’t going to ruin it for me.
Besides, once I’d taken the seal off, I was going to push her down it and then she wouldn’t ruin anything for me ever again.
“How deep is it?” At least she was attempting to show interest.
“About seven and a half miles,” I replied.
She made a quiet “ooh” sound. “That’s actually amazing,” Melissa conceded and gave me a smile. A sneer curled across my mouth.
“How long would it take to fall down it?”
I shrugged. “I’ve no idea. But you’d die before you actually reached the bottom.”
“Oh, how come?” Yeah, now she was interested.
“The heat. It gets very hot the further you go down.” I said it slowly, as if talking to a child. Which, mentally, I was pretty sure that she was. She didn’t ask any more questions. I meant that she was pretending to understand.
I hate you, I thought. I wish I’d never married you. Out loud I said, “Are you going to give me a hand taking the seal off?”
Melissa stared at me in surprise. “We’re taking the seal off? Are we allowed to do that?”
“It’s Russia,” I said. “Who gives a shit?”
I’d brought a portable oxyacetylene torch as well as crowbars and wrenches of differing sizes. I expected it to take some time to cut through the seal, probably hours. That meant camping out overnight and finishing in the morning. Melissa would complain, of course, but… only for one more night.
Fortunately, Russia’s casual attitude to security measures extended to the seal itself. The metal was much thinner than expected, and of poor quality. Before long the torch had burnt a decent sized hole in the sheet, and as I probed it with my crowbar there was a ringing pop. I threw my weight against the bar and almost half of the plate came away, hinging on a crack that ran the full diameter of the seal.
Sitting nearby, Melissa exclaimed, “Ooh, well done! It’s open!”
But I could see that it was no good. The borehole wasn’t that big and the whole seal would have to be removed if I wanted to fit her down it. That would still take quite some time. I gritted my teeth and kept cutting. She came nearer and I just knew that she was looking directly at the glowing metalwork.
“Why are you taking the rest of it off? We can see down now.”
I shook my head, my voice slightly muffled by my mask, “Er, no. It needs to be bigger. I want to fit a camera down there.”
“Oh,” she said. She picked up a rock from nearby and dropped it into the darkness. “How long will it take until it hits the ground?”
I looked at her in disbelief. “I literally said that I don’t know.”
I worked for another hour before grudgingly accepting that it would have to be finished in the morning. I turned the torch off and pulled the mask away.
“Let’s get the tent up,” I said, not looking at Melissa, preparing for a fight.
“Ok,” she said. I looked at her in surprise. She was standing closer than expected, looking down into the darkness through the seal. I wondered how long she’d been there. After a few moments I reached out and tapped her arm.
“Well, come on then.”
She looked up at me with big vacant eyes, just staring for a few seconds then she moved over to our bags.
We worked in silence, which was a first. Usually Melissa would complain of sore feet or general tiredness but this time she barely said a word. Occasionally she glanced over at the borehole.
I was setting out the sleeping bags inside the tent when I heard her say, “I think there’s something down there.”
For a moment I stared blankly ahead and asked myself just what I’d done to deserve her before going outside.
“Down where?” I wasn’t sure why I asked the question. I knew the answer. Melissa pointed at the hole.
“I saw something.”
“That’s impossible. Nothing could get down there. Nothing could live down there. And even if there was something you couldn’t see anything because it is completely pitch black.”
She stood by the hole and stared down at it, not answering. I rolled my eyes and went back into the tent. We hadn’t eaten but I was too eager for the next day to care. If she was hungry she could make something for herself.
I fell asleep quickly and didn’t notice that Melissa didn’t come into the tent.
I dreamed. I dreamed that I awoke in darkness, alone. Outside there was a silhouette against the night sky. In the torchlight I could see that it was Melissa, standing by the borehole but not looking at it. She was looking at me with wide black eyes, her face split open. The torch fell from my hand and as it rolled away its reflected light revealed her, standing in place but pulsating and shaking, her head juddering from side to side. I didn’t remember anything else.
I was awoken the next morning by dull sunshine. I kicked open my sleeping bag and crawled outside. Melissa was already there, seated on the ground by the borehole. She didn’t look at me and I assumed that she didn’t know I was there, until she spoke.
“Stephen, there’s something down there.”
I pressed my hands against my face.
“For God's sake Melissa, are you still on that? I just woke up.”
She turned to look at me, her face pale. She didn’t look like she’d slept. I went over and glanced down the hole.
“There is literally nothing but darkness. How about you make some food while I take the rest of the seal off?” She might as well be useful in her final hours. Melissa hesitated and then nodded, moving away from what would soon become her permanent resting place.
She started rooting through the bags and I got straight to work. I wasn’t really hungry, I was far too excited for that.
Not long now…
She made me some breakfast and it grew cold on the floor beside me as I pressed on. I twisted out the giant bolts, and kept cutting, pausing to lever up the metal, and then cut again. Wrench, cut, lever. It was almost enjoyable and before I knew it, it was done. With a most satisfying bang, the remains of the seal popped up and fell away from the side of the hole.
I stood up and threw the crowbar to the ground, satisfied and relishing the rewards to come. I turned to look for Melissa and found her sitting close by. She stared up at me.
“You saw it, didn’t you?” She asked, her voice shaking. I was in far too good a mood to feel angry.
“I saw nothing, my love, but why don’t you come over here and show me what you think it is?”
Melissa shook her head. “No way. I can see it from here.”
There was no way she could see anything in the pipe from where she was sitting – even if there was something to see. I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t be a coward. Come here.”
She shook her head again. “No. It’s there Stephen, I can see it. It’s fucking there!”
I stared at her in surprise. I’d never heard her swear before. I paused and turned back to the borehole.
Nothing, of course. I looked back at Melissa. She just stared at me with a defiant expression. I sighed and knelt down next to the hole, leaning forward a little whilst carefully keeping my balance, and peered down into the darkness.
It was quite exhilarating. Seven and a half miles straight down, of nothing but darkness.
Nothing… but that.
It was just a dot, down in the blackness. Something that wasn’t black. Something that was white. Something that was growing. I stared at it uncomprehendingly until I realised that it wasn’t growing, it was moving. Moving fast. Moving closer. I felt a rush of shock that became fear. This was impossible, impossible!
Suddenly Melissa's voice was in my ear. “It doesn’t like being alone,” she hissed. She pushed me hard and I fell forward.
I fell and fell and fell.
I fell for three minutes and forty seven seconds.