Corporeal Passage: Chapter 17: From the Darkness, From the Forest
by Jeff RandThe wall was at least 30 feet tall, and once Eli had exited through the gate, it closed automatically forming a perfect seal. Ahead, the narrow roadway stretched into a forest. Although it was dark outside, or at least Ethan presumed it to be, the images of the trees on the surface of the hemix were fully visible. The trees had tall smooth trunks, opening into canopies with full blooms. Ethan had some acquaintance with dendrology, but could not identify the species. They were like the pictures of those he had seen of baobab trees from Madagascar.
"Eli, I don't understand how the trees can be growing here in the perpetual darkness?" asked Ethan.
Eli paused for a moment, as if having trouble understanding Ethan. "Why would it always be dark?", he inquired in response.
"With no sunlight here in the center of the earth, there must be some other source. Is there light coming from volcanic activity?"
Ron felt obligated to curtail the conversation, "Ethan, you are posing difficult questions to Eli who has trouble understanding your language. I suggest you not pursue it at this time."
Eli turned his attention to the vehicle as he accelerated through the forest. After several minutes winding through the woods, the narrow lane was adjoined by another lane on its left. At this juncture, Ethan observed several cylindrical structures on the right, but the hemix was moving too quickly for careful observation. Ethan turned to his left to see the image of a similar vehicle pass by quickly. He had never had such an experience driving on the earth's surface when that was possible years ago, but he guessed that they were moving as fast as a jet plane.
After passing more structures and forested stretches, Eli slowed the hemix, as they passed a series of shorter domed structures. When he approached his destination, he brought the hemix to an abrupt stop. It was then that Ethan noticed the hemix performed a quarter turn, as if it were simply turning on its axis. Ahead was a short roadway heading toward a small domed structure. This structure was attached to a much larger one that appeared to be made of fine stonework with intricate wood trim. A doorway split open on the smaller dome allowing Eli to move the hemix into what appeared to be a garage.
Eli stepped around Ethan and opened the door to the hemix, directing the occupants to exit the vehicle. Ethan stepped onto the floor, surprised that it was not concrete or some other composite but brightly colored solid stonework. The garage was at least twice the diameter of the hemix and about twelve feet tall. The domed ceiling was illuminated with chromites depicting an array of geometric figures. Clockwise from the doorway that they had just entered, an archway led to a larger structure. The arch was adorned with unusual flowering plants. The remainder of the walls in this circular garage were covered with various objects that appeared to be tools. Most had unknown purposes, but Ethan observed a pitchfork hanging next to an exceptionally large sledgehammer.
Ethan and Louis were ushered into the archway presumably heading to the main structure. The pathway measured about twenty-five feet between the garage and the larger dome. It was adorned with flowering plants forming an arch within the larger enclosed archway. The exterior archway appeared to be transparent, but the outside darkness made such assertion indeterminant.
Eli led the group through the arched corridor and approached a wall at its end. The wall was decorated with an array of blue shades blended in a pleasing manner. Superimposed on the blue was a golden Sierpi?ski Triangle, like the one which Ethan recognized when he first entered Zero Node. Ethan expected Eli to activate a control to open the passage, but Eli made no such attempt. Rather, he walked right through the wall and disappeared on the other side. Leu and Ron followed without hesitation, leaving Ethan alone. Ethan paused wishing that his son had been more cautious. He extended his hand to test the fluidity of the apparent obstruction. His hand stopped abruptly when it touched the solid wall. This caused the blue background on the wall to change to shades of red. Ethan kicked with his right foot against the solid surface.
Ethan paused for a moment and called to his son, "Louis are you OK?"
There was no answer and again no response to a repeated request. Ethan was getting nervous. He took a few steps back to the garage to extract the large sledgehammer. He expected it to weigh at least fifty pounds and was surprised at his own strength when he lifted it with ease. He moved back into the corridor ready to break a hole in the wall, when it disappeared, and he saw his son standing with a mischievous smirk on his face.
Ethan growled at Leu and followed him into a large open room. Ron and Eli were standing before them with two others.
"This is Eli's wife Eva and daughter Roma," said Ron.
Ethan was not surprised to find the women to be well over six feet tall but had expected them to be fully clothed. However, they were topless, exposing their poorly developed breasts. The more developed one, whom Ethan determined to be the wife and mother, stuck her tongue out. Having observed this strange greeting behavior earlier from Eli, Ethan was quick to respond by extending his own frenulum of tongue.
Eli escorted his guests to a circular table passing by intricate wood carvings that lined the entrance to the room. Although the chairs were comfortably padded, Ethan's legs would not reach the floor when he took his seat. When the family and guests were in place, Eli uttered a few remarks in some unknown language, while placing his hands on top of his head. His wife and daughter did the same.
Ron offered explanation to the guests, "You may want to place your hands on your heads for grace."
Leu and Ethan responded appropriately.
Now that everyone was prepared for the blessing, Eli tilted his head back and began to chant. When he was finished, the others responded with a vocalization that sounded much like "amen." Ethan and Leu followed suit.
Since the table was bare except for an elegant floral centerpiece, Ethan assumed that Eva would be leaving to get their food. However, she made no attempt to rise from her seat. "Perhaps the women in this advanced society inside the earth do not have the same domestic responsibilities as those on the surface," thought Ethan.
With no warning, the center of the table descended with the floral arrangement, only to be replaced with six brightly colored glasses accompanied with bowls and large spoons. When Ethan saw the others take their glasses, he did the same, expecting it to be filled with some vile liquid such as piping hot coffee. Instead, it appeared to contain ordinary dihydrogen monoxide. A clear pipe extended up from the very center of the table with an outstretched arm and spout. When Eli raised his hand in the direction of his bowl, the arm turned to place its spout directly above it. Then he lowered his hand as a concoction flowed from the spout into his bowl. When he raised his hand again, the mixture ceased flowing into his bowl. Eva, Roma, and Ron used the same hand motions as the arm turned in their direction to fill their bowls with the desired levels. Next it was Leu's turn, as he was eager to test the process. Of course, rather than raising his hand when the filling should stop, he let it continue until his bowl was filled completely, at which time the valve closed on its own so not to allow the bowl to overflow.
"Louis, you might be wanting to get enough to eat," remarked Ron. "But I should point out that this is the first of six courses. Eli and the folks here do not mix their foods. They will always finish one course before starting another. If you don't eat what you have taken, then you will not be able to partake in the subsequent courses."
Ethan reacted to Ron's comment and scooped some of the contents from Leu's bowl into his own. When it came time for the mechanism to fill his bowl, he waved his hand quickly to avoid adding any more to his serving.
After the six courses had been served from the system and all were satiated, Ethan turned to Ron and said, "These foods were unlike anything I have ever eaten, but truly delicious."
Following the last course, which Ethan considered dessert, the bowls and spoons were returned to the center of the round table. Then they were lowered and replaced with the floral arrangement when the center of the table rose again to create a smooth surface.
During dinner, Ethan looked across the dining area towards the open center of the house. Although the ceiling was perhaps just 12 feet high in the dining alcove, it rose much higher in the center of the building. When Eli rose and directed his guests to follow, Ethan came to a better understanding of the design of the house. The main structure was about 70 feet in diameter and nearly 50 feet tall. There were three levels surrounding a central atrium rising to the dome that had a diameter of 25 feet. It contained five tall trees with narrow profiles around a central fountain. The adjoining ground was filled with beautiful flowering plants.
Eli directed the guests into the atrium where they could view the rest of the first floor. The dining area was one of five sections separated by walls, while having open fronts facing the inner atrium of the circular house. Ron described the sections to Ethan and Leu. They had enjoyed dinner in the dining area. Moving clockwise from that was the greeting room and the main entrance to the house. Then there was the activity center, which he indicated was similar to a family room. Next was the library and reading room. The last section was the actual kitchen, workspace, and storage. On either side of the greeting room two circular stairways led to the next level. Then there were two small circular rooms towards the rear that housed appliances for extracting human waste.
As Ethan marveled at the design of the house, Eli approached a panel near the fountain and shut it off. Momentarily, a rock pillar rose from the floor and the water flow resumed from the top of the pillar, cascading down its sides in a brilliant blue color. Then the walls separating the five exterior rooms disappeared creating one large room, save for the two circular stairways and restrooms. When Ethan had first looked to the second floor above the five exterior sections, he observed a balcony with a wall and doors to the various rooms. Now the wall was transparent, with the design much like the one he had experienced in the Zero Node apartments. Ron indicated the house had four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and stairway to a separate study/media room on the third level. He said that a fifth room on the second level was designed as a playroom.
Lou and Ethan joined the family as they were seated in the activity center. Eli reactivated the walls between the exterior rooms. As he did so, new doors and walls were present separating these rooms from the central atrium. Now only the activity room openly faced the atrium and cascading waterfall.
Ron and Roma picked up two tablets, facing a wall that had become activated with an intricate design. Ron turned to face the guests, saying, "It is now family night where Roma and I will engage in a little friendly competition. I am just learning this game. It is much like Battle Chess that the Infinite Wisdom told us about, although there will be no actual physical combat. I am the orange player you see displayed on the wall. Roma is yellow. Eli will provide the questions. I am sorry you won't understand his language. I am still learning it myself, which puts me at a disadvantage."
Eli and Eva sat off to the side, as some words were exchanged between the native speakers. Ron and Roma started moving their men on the wall screen through an intricate maze. When they stopped movement, Eli uttered some words, which Ethan assumed was a question. When he heard Roma reply and move her piece, he assumed she had answered it correctly. Play continued with Roma answering most of the questions. After about a dozen questions and moves, Ethan observed the players flashing on the wall screen and a subsequent scramble of moves. Then the player images expanded into hideous beasts and a vicious fight commenced. Since Ethan was sure that Ron and Roma were controlling the beasts on the screen, he was amazed at their violent tendencies. Eli and Eva were delighted to watch.
The game continued for some time until Roma rose and performed what appeared to be a victory dance. Ron turned to the guests. "I lost to a girl," he said. "Leu, are you ready to try to beat your father?"
Although Ethan had some trepidation about exposing his son to such violence, Leu jumped at the chance. Ethan had no choice but to appease his hosts. As Ethan and Leu climbed into the tall seats facing the wall, Ron began to explain the rules of the game.
Suddenly, a loud siren sounded and the walls and ceiling flashed red. Eli jumped from his seat and barked a command at Ron before rushing to the control panel.
Ron shouted at Ethan and Leu, "They're coming for us! We must hide!"
Eli directed the trio to the center of the atrium where the cascading waterfall had been seconds ago. Now there was a hole. Leu and Ethan followed Ron into the hole before it closed above them, and everything went silent.