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|Time travel or devine intervention, you decide. The story of a scientist, who against what he knows to be right, is swept up in the occult in order to find who he truly is.||
ã Keith Trimm 2000
April 23, 1947
The crash of the screen door, raced through the house like a shotgun blast. Loud footsteps tromped through the entrance hallway, waking the sleeping cat contently napping on the steam radiator. The footsteps stopped and the room fell still. Only the sound of the rain tapping on the tin shed outside broke the silence. In the center of the room stood a terrified young man, dripping water on the floor and shaking from the cold. For a moment, the room was quiet and the cat laid its head back down, squeezing its eyes shut for another nap.
"Mother!" screamed the boy from the kitchen. "Mother help! Dad’s been hurt!"
The stillness was again broken, but this time by the sound of hurried, muffled footsteps from above. He looked up and listened to the footsteps scrambling from the upstairs bedroom, across the hallway and down the staircase. The door swung open at the bottom of the staircase striking the wall behind. His mother entered the kitchen and stood, panicked, winded and wide-eyed. Before her stood a boy of fifteen years of age, soaked from head to toe, and covered in mud. His horrified mother looked into his eyes perceived his fear, and hot lead shot through her veins.
"What is it Jesse?" she asked. It was hard for her to remain calm.
"It’s Pa!" he cried. "The tractor rolled him over and he’s stuck underneath!"
She stared at him in disbelief, lost in the moment of confusion, keeping her eyes riveted to his.
"Is he alright?" she asked. Her hands began to tremble, and she tingled all over.
"I don’t know," he replied. " He looks real bad, you need to call the sheriff," he cried, "And the neighbor’s." The boy looked out the window at the storm. He was lost in a daze. " I need to get back out there," he said with a tremble in his voice.
"Go!" his mother, yelled at him. "Do what you can, I’ll get help!"
He scrambled back out of the kitchen letting the screen door slam behind him. Quickly, he dashed through the front gate, through the mud, to his pick-up truck idling outside the house. He opened the door and jumped inside slamming the door shut behind him.
His mother ran to the phone and turned the crank until the operator came on the line.
"Central, how may I place your call?" the operator asked.
"I need the sheriff!" she cried. "My husband’s been in an accident!"
"Hold the line and I will connect you," the operator replied.
Depressing the clutch, the boy shifted the truck into gear and spun out on the mud-covered driveway. His hands gripped the steering wheel tight, and his heart began to race as he turned the corner, heading towards the barn. The windshield wiper swished back and forth clearing the rain from his view, and he strained to keep control of the vehicle on the soft ground. The boy passed the woodshed and drove to the barn.
He slid to a halt, put on the brake, and jumped out of the truck letting it idle on the muddy roadway. His first steps were uneasy, slipping on the rain soaked ground finding it difficult to balance. Steadying himself, he ran to the tool shed attached to the hay barn. Once inside, he pushed aside a wheelbarrow and knocked over several pitchforks in attempting to locate a section of tow chain that he knew was buried under a pile of sheet metal stored inside.
Pushing an oil barrel aside, he located the chain under a pile of rusted machine parts and gripped it firmly. He stood and pulled hard. The chain dislodged abruptly from under the pile knocking him off balance, knocking him to the ground. He reached up to get a grip on the workbench, and cut his hand on a sharp edge of angle iron. With no time to waste, he gathered the chain into his arms and lifted.
The chains’ massive weight strained his shoulders and back and its length was awkward to control. Scrambling to his feet, he darted out into the rain and lifted the chain into the back of the truck. The liquid steel mass of chain landed with the rattle of a metallic snake. He opened the truck door and jumped inside, wiping the water from his eyes, smearing blood and grease across his face and neck.
Looking in his rearview mirror, the boy saw his mother standing at the doorway of the house watching him. He knew the phone call to the sheriff was made and help must be on its way. This comforted him some as he slammed his foot down on the clutch and grabbed the gearshift. Mud shot out from under the rear tires and he spun out down the road towards his father.
"Hold on dad!" he said out loud. His attempts to keep the truck centered on the road ahead were strained by the abnormal slant of the surface, combined with the slippery mud. Past the barn, the road dipped slightly, declining past the bullpen towards the pasture. The road then evened off for a hundred yards to the cattle gate at the far end. He scanned out his drivers’ side window noticing the bull, ankle deep in water, standing in its pen by the feed troth. The bulls’ dark eyes followed the truck as it past by seemingly unaffected by the storm. His father was feeding the cattle when the accident happened, and seeing the bull reminded him of what his father was doing, making him flush with anger.
It was over a mile though the pasture to where his father was lying pinned under his John Deere. He past through the open gate to the pasture, finding the ground more solid. He was able to drive along side the road, on the grass avoiding sinking in any farther, making better time to the accident scene.
The sky was gray, and the rain continued to pour as flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder shot across the countryside. Scanning through the windshield, he could see his father’s cattle gathered together in a huddle. The cattle had been congregated around the tractor while his father was dumping hay on the ground, but for some reason they had now moved off some distance from where they once were.
As he came over the hill, he now realized why the cattle had moved off. The John Deere tractor was scarcely visible over the horizon, and sinking slowly into the soft ground. He parked the truck thirty feet from the accident scene, and exited the vehicle. Running as close to the tractor as he could, he searched for his father who was pinned underneath. To his astonishment, he could no longer see him.
A large sinkhole had formed, and the tractor was slowly being swallowed up along with his father. Mud and water were puddled at the bottom threatening to drown his father before he would be saved.
"Dad!" Jesse yelled down to his father.
Silence. Then a moan and cry of pain.
"Dad! The sheriff is on the way."
Jesse stepped in closer and felt the ground start to give way under his feet near the edge of the crater. He backed off and watched the mud sliding down the embankment, into the hole from where he had stepped and moved back a safe distance. Jesse ran around the edge to get a better look at his father and realized he was no longer making any sounds. The hole, already six feet deep, was visibly getting deeper by the minute, and his father was difficult to see under the tractor.
Surrounding the John Deere were bubbles that surfaced from below the water, creating the illusion of the tractor boiling in a pond. His father was no longer visible and he struggled to get a better view running back and forth near the edge of the hole. The splatter of rain on the pasture and the beating of his heart were the only sounds audible now. He needed to act now or lose his father forever.
Wiping his hands on his jacket, he turned around and ran back towards the truck, which was idling quietly alone in the rain. He found it difficult to run, slipping and sliding on the wet ground falling to his knees, muddying his trousers Once reaching the truck, he lifted the door handle, got inside and stepped on the clutch. The gearshift was pushed into first gear and he slowly moved the truck forward towards the hole. Edging at a snails pace, feeling out the soft ground, he drove until he could no longer see the hole over the hood of the truck and stopped.
Letting the truck idle, he jumped out, ran to the back and dropped the tailgate. He leaned over and grasped the tow chain with both hands, pulling it to the open end with a loud scraping sound. The cuts in his hand burned as he lifted the chain out and drug it around to the front of the truck where he fastened one end to the bumper with the hook. The other end of the chain he dropped down the edge of the hole, letting it splash in the puddle of water next to the tractor. He noticed the tractor was now nine feet deep and still sinking.
"Hold on Pa!" the boy, yelled as he shimmied down the chain to the tractor below. The mud and water made his grip on the chain shaky at best. Holding tightly, he slid slowly down the embankment to the overturned tractor at the bottom. Near the bottom, he reached out to the axle of the John Deere and used it as leverage to put his leg on the frame. He pulled himself on top of the only solid object around him and balanced on the narrow frame.
"Dad! Are you ok?" Jesse asked, craning his neck to look under the tractor. With no response, he grabbed the chain and started wrapping it around the axle, pulling out as much slack as he could. When the slack was completely used, he connected the hook on the end to the chain itself and looked back up at the edge of the hole, which was getting further and further away. The chain became taut as they slowly descended deeper into the hole, causing the tractor to shift with the moving ground.
Jesse grabbed the chain and with all his strength began to climb up; knowing at any moment the chain could give way and snap back at him injuring him severely. The grease of the chain in combination with the mud, water and blood made his journey difficult at best, impossible at worst. Hand over hand he continued upwards unwilling to let his father die this way, not looking back.
At the rim he was belly flat on the mud kicking and straining to find solid ground. Every bit of struggle sent more mud and rock sliding down to the bottom of the hole splashing water on the tractor and his father. He could hear plopping sounds from below as the mud clods broke the plane of the water surface.
At the top of the hole, he rolled over on his back and struggled to stand. He ran back to the truck, which was still in idle, and put it in reverse. Slowly he gave it gas attempting to pull the tractor out of the hole. Maybe from a lack of experience, maybe from the excitement of the moment, the boy did not realize that this chain had no way of ever pulling the massive weight of the tractor out of the hole. He did not even realize that he may be injuring his father, or even be killing him.
The tires spun and lost traction. The truck slid forward, closer and closer to the hole while the tires spun in the opposite direction. The boy’s heart now was in his throat and he felt a hot flush now realizing his mistake. He immediately turned off the engine, leaving it in gear, and stopped the wheels from moving. He then set the parking break and looked out his window to see if this stopped his forward progress. The movement had slowed, but he now heard the sound of the bolts in the bumper starting to creak and snap.
From behind, he heard the unmistakable sounds of police sirens and turned to see two vehicles passing through the pasture gate. An overwhelming feeling of relief struck him, knowing help was on its way. Sheriffs’ car was followed by his neighbors’ red grain truck, which was more suited to the muddy ground with its wide tires.
Just then, the bottom gave way in the sinkhole, and the rear of the tractor fell in leaving the entire support of its weight on the chain. The pickup truck jolted, quickly picked up momentum and slid towards the hole. The closer it slid, the quicker the pace picked up, and the more terrified the boy became.
Grasping the door handle, he lifted it and shoved out. He was too late to get out, and the truck was pulled into the hole disappearing from view. Jesse’s mother, riding in the patrol car, could hear the sound of metal on metal as tears welled up in her eyes again.
Two hours passed until the sheriff could locate a construction crane and transport it out to the accident scene. The rural fire fighters did not have the type of heavy equipment necessary to retrieve such a heavy object from so far below, and had to scramble to find something suited for a job of this nature. The pickup truck had come to rest on top of the submerged tractor; the truck half buried in the soft mud.
By this time the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the scene was a mess of emergency vehicles, emergency personnel, and horrified bystanders. The hole receded twenty-five feet and the vehicles at the bottom came to a final rest, no longer sinking deeper into the Earth. The crane was belching black smoke and the operator swung it into position over the pickup truck. A hook was attached to the cable, and a man hung from a strap attached to the hook, dangling precariously above the hole. Jesse’s mother cried as she watched the man descend into the hole to retrieve her son.
"Ten more feet!" a fireman yelled to the crane operator. The cable slowed its descent and everyone watched the action unfold. "Hold it!" he yelled and the cable came to a halt. The man on the cable unhooked himself and balanced on the drivers’ side of the truck cab. He bent over and wiped mud away from the window trying to see the boy inside.
A moment later he yelled, "He’s alive!" to the amazement of the crowd. The man tried in vain to open the door, which was jammed shut in the crash.
"We have to take the whole thing out!" he yelled to the sheriff standing watch over the entire operation. Hearing this, the sheriff ran to the crane operator and spoke with him briefly. The operator nodded his head and the sheriff returned to his post along side the sinkhole.
"Can you tie the cable around the axle?" the sheriff yelled to the man in the hole.
"Yes," he replied and he returned to the task at hand.
Minutes later the rescuer gave the ok and he climbed back up onto the cable, keeping his feet on the steel ball above the hook. The sheriff gave the signal and the submerged truck jerked hard almost knocking off the man on the cable. A moment later the truck gave out a groan as it lifted out of the pool. Mud poured out from the bed and cab as it slowly rose from the depths below.
"Hold it!" yelled the sheriff to the crane operator, noticing the chain was still attached to the bumper of the pickup truck and sunken tractor. The sheriff gave the signal to lower the truck again and stopped it when the chain went slack. The rescuer then leaned out over the hood and disconnected the chain letting it disappear into the mud below. The crane lifted again taking up cable, until the truck was clear of the hole. It then slowly swung to the left, hovering over solid ground. The sheriff waved his hand and the crane operator gently set the truck down.
The firemen and sheriff’s deputies rushed to the vehicle and tried in vain to open the doors that were jammed shut from the force of impact. One of the firemen, axe in tow, broke out the glass on the passenger side window allowing the firemen to extract Jesse to safety. The boy was laid to the ground conscious and lucid.
"Mother!" he yelled to the crowd wiping mud from his eyes.
"Jesse!" his mother shouted back as she pushed through the crowd. She knelt down; her heart filled with relief as a huge weight was lifted from her spirits.
"I’m sorry," he cried. "I tried to get him out."
"I know," his mother replied, tears streamed down her face.
The boy was set on a stretcher and placed into the ambulance. His mother watched as the ambulance drove away with her son. She wandered back over to the sinkhole and looked down into the pool knowing her husband was still under the tractor beneath the pool of muddy brown water.
It was getting late and the gray skies had started to turn red. It was difficult to see anything now and she asked for a ride to the hospital. Over the horizon the sun, hidden behind the clouds, was setting for the evening. The task of body recovery would have to wait until morning. The crowd dispersed and night set in.
The next morning an attempt was made to recover the dead mans body. The skies were now clear and the storm had blown over the night before. The sun, rising over the horizon, reflected in the pool at the bottom of the sinkhole shooting a shimmer of red light against the side of the pit. The water was still.
Two men were lowered into the hole on the crane wearing fishing waders and rubber boots. Attached to the giant hook on the end of the cable were several heavy-duty construction chains capable of supporting the weight of the tractor.
Penetrating the surface of the mud, the men felt around in the slime for key places to attach the chains to the frame securing it as best they could. They signaled the crane to lift, and it groaned and whined as it pulled the massive beast out of the sucking mud, into daylight.
The tractor rose out of the hole dripping mud and water back into the pit from whence it came. It was swung out of the hole and was placed next to the smashed pickup truck. The truck was still covered with drying mud and dents covered its surface. Frustrated, the sheriff stood alongside the rim of the hole with his hands on his hips, shaking his head in dismay. He stared blankly down at the muddy pool below where the tractor once was.
On the left bank of the hole something caught his eye. It looked like a cavern carved into the north bank of the crater. The cavern was revealed when the mud level dropped after the tractor was removed from the pool. The tunnel was a graceful half moon shape penetrating into the side extending less then ten feet above the surface. Mud had entered into the cavern, and it was slowly draining back into the main sinkhole. "Was this the reason for the sinkhole?" the sheriff thought to himself. "An underground cavern?" This required more investigation than he was capable of.
A bucket attachment originally designed to haul concrete was connected to the crane and dropped into the mud below with a splash. They found it useful in removing the sediments one cubic yard at a time quickening the pace of recovery considerably. The bucket took out large bites reducing the quantities of mud very quickly, draining the cavern even faster, and revealing how massive it actually was.
It wasn’t long before the bucket found pay dirt grabbing the dead mans leg in its steel jaws. The sheriff gave a signal and the body was hauled from its Earthly grave, dripping and lifeless. Its arms dangled down like a rag doll in a dog’s mouth shaking back and forth with the motion of the crane. The long arm swung to the right and hovered above solid ground, releasing the body, letting it crumple to the ground. The sheriff called the ambulance to pick up the body, meanwhile covering it with a tarp so bystanders and family members would not see it.
With the remains recovered, the situation was now officially over as far as the law was concerned. The sheriff though had a personal curiosity as to the nature of the cavern carved into the side of the hole. The amount of mud extracted from it led him to believe it was of a massive size needing to be investigated by someone with knowledge of geology.
A call was made to the University of Kansas geology department to see if he could contact an interested party.
Two days later a car with Kansas State plates and a university logo painted on the side pulled up to the farmhouse to meet the sheriff. Two men exited the vehicle and approached the sheriff who was standing alone in his brown and black uniform. One man put out his hand.
"Dr. Stan West," he stated shaking the officer’s hand.
"Chad Hine, grad assistant," the other man said. He did not offer his hand.
"I’m glad you decided to come out," the sheriff told them, "This is a long way from Manhattan."
"No problem," Dr. West replied, "This is my favorite part of the job," he said with a smile.
The men walked to the sheriff’s car, which was parked in front of the farmhouse and crawled inside. The sheriff started the car and pulled away from the farmhouse, driving down the narrow gravel road. The tires made a grinding sound as the passed over the rocks and gravel.
"I don’t suppose you guys get to many calls like this?" the sheriff asked as he drove past the hay-barn.
"We get calls on all sorts of things," the grad student replied, "Usually someone thinking they have struck oil or gold, looking for confirmation,"
"This is no gold," the officer said laughing, "But damn peculiar!"
"This cavern you mentioned. Is there anything out of the ordinary about it?" the grad student asked.
"Two things," The sheriff replied extending his first two fingers on his right hand. " First you don’t get many sinkholes in good pasture land, and two, the cavern is too symmetrical."
The two teachers from the university were quite impressed with the backwater sheriff’s scientific curiosity and judgment.
"Symmetrical?" the doctor asked.
"Shaped like a thirty foot pear, skinny on the top and wide at the bottom," he replied, keeping his eyes on the pasture ahead through the windshield. They had just past through the cattle gate and were on the last leg of the journey to the work site.
All that remained at the accident scene were the crane, and a backhoe. The backhoe was equipped with a front mount blade that aided in dispersing the extracted mud across the pastureland. The only sounds they could hear as they approached the scene, were the clanking of metal machines and the rumble of the engines on the wind swept prairie.
"What a mess," the doctor thought to himself as they parked along side the crane. The men exited the car and the sheriff walked to the rear of the vehicle, popping the trunk, revealing three sets of waders and boots inside piled in a heap.
"You’ll want to grab a pair," he said to the men and they all reached in and took a set for themselves. They struggled with the bulky rubber suits finding it awkward to move in them easily. The men walked over to the rim of the crater and stared down in disbelief.
"I have never seen anything like this before," the doctor said adjusting his waders.
"We’re going down, right?" the grad student asked with his head tilted in curiosity.
"That’s why I called you here," the sheriff answered. "Follow me," he added and they walked the edge of the crater to where the crane was located.
"We attached the bucket so we could go down inside," the sheriff told them. "We’ll need to take some supplies with us," he added pointing to two gas lanterns and two square end shovels leaning up against the bucket. The men gathered up the gear and strained to climb into the bucket that created quite a tight fit for the three of them. With a signal from the sheriff, the crane operator pushed a lever and the bucket raised them off the ground with a noticeable jerk, knocking them off balance.
The long arm swung them over the crater until they were centered over the cavern on the north side. Once in place, the sheriff waved to the crane operator and they slowly descended thirty feet into the hole.
Moments later the bucket struck ground, sinking a foot into the mud.
"Here we are," the sheriff said swinging his legs over the bucket. He slid off the side and landed knee deep in sucking mud. "Crap!" he yelled, and waddled slowly out of the deep end towards the cavern like a penguin. The other two men quickly followed climbing to higher ground at the mouth of the cavern.
The grad student trudged to the side of the tunnel and scraped the mud off his boots with the shovel. He stepped to the side of the tunnel and touched it with his hand like it was an eggshell. Wiping off an area at eye level, he examined it close and backed off. He looked at the mud on his palm and then to the sheriff.
"This has too many even shapes and straight lines," he said to the men. "The shape is too perfect, too man made," he added turning back to face the other two. The space reminded him of the inside of a railroad passenger car with windows running the length of both sides. He noticed what looked like rows of evenly spaced seats receding into the darkness. All three men stood dumbfounded as they craned their necks looking up at the vastness of the cavern.
"Let’s get these lanterns lit," the sheriff said producing a flip top lighter. The doctor turned on the gas, lifted the globe, and allowed the sheriff to ignite the mantels. With a tweak of a screw, the globes burned a brilliant white, illuminating the entrance and shooting dark shadows dancing on the walls. The sheriff then lit the grad student’s lantern and turned to journey inside.
"Are we going to be safe in there?" the doctor asked.
"We have no idea if the structure is sound," the grad student added. "It could cave in at any time."
"I’m willing to take that risk," the sheriff replied and went forth into the cavern. A moment later he was joined by the other two men, lanterns and shovels in tow. The deeper they went the darker it became. The only natural light visible was that seeping in from the mouth of the tunnel. The lanterns cast a harsh glow on everything they touched projecting black shadows that moved as they did.
"These look like chairs," the grad student stated in a matter of fact tone. He moved closer to one of them and wiped the mud away from the top of one of the objects. "Trans Pacific Airlines," he said aloud as he read the writing illuminated by the lantern.
"Airlines?" the doctor asked. "Let me see that!" The doctor moved in closer and put his lantern right up to the writing and read it for himself. "This is a plane?" he asked out loud. "The only planes of this size I know of are all military, not civilian use," he added.
They made their way further into the structure. "That explains a lot," the grad student said. "The regularities, the symmetry. Those cut outs up there must be rows of windows."
"This is impossible," the doctor replied. "We are twenty feet below the surface of the Earth! How could a plane find its way under the ground? Did it crash? Where are the passengers?"
"Down there," the sheriff answered, pointing to the floor. Assorted bones were scattered all over the floor in a mix match of body parts. Long bones, ribs, and skulls were the most noticeable remains littering the ground.
"Watch where you step!" the sheriff instructed the men.
"We have to get the authorities!" the doctor yelled to the sheriff. "I refuse to go on any further!"
" I am the authorities!" the sheriff yelled back. "Now follow me or get out!" he barked at the two men. A moment of tension and silence filled the room, as they tried to make sense of the events unfolding. The sheriff turned and proceeding into the cavern followed by the two worried college teachers.
"If this is an airplane then there should be a cock pit," the sheriff said coldly. "Maybe we can get some information there,"
The lights continued to dance on the walls as they moved onward, deeper and deeper inside.
"This is it I think," the sheriff said pointing to a closed door a few feet in front of them. He grabbed the handle and gave it a hard pull knocking mud and water into the air as he freed it from the grip of its tight hinges. The door broke loose and fell to the floor splashing mud in all directions, covering the men. The hinges snapped under the pressure and the doctor took notice of there rusted condition.
"Bring the light over here," the sheriff said directing them to move in closer. "What the…?" the sheriff asked as he reached into the cockpit extracting an object from the floor. In his hands he held the skull of a dog, its fangs long and sharp, and its eyes hollow and empty. "Now this is one for the papers," the sheriff said looking back at the men. To his amazement they did not seem surprised by this discovery at all. "Doesn’t this seem a bit odd to you?" he asked with his brow furled in a questioning look.
"We’re no longer playing this game," the doctor replied.
"What game?" the sheriff asked. "You think I planted this here?"
"Absolutely," the doctor replied. The mood in the room was noticeably changed.
"You don’t recognize us?" the grad student asked the sheriff.
"Should I?" the sheriff responded.
The grad student stepped forward and set his lantern on the floor. "Your leader has fallen because he is a flawed spirit. He was given free will and used it to turn from his creator, only to be cast from heaven and forced to dwell here for eternity. You as well, cast from heaven along with a third of the angels are flawed, and unable to see the truth and the light standing before you."
The sheriff panicked, but held his ground. The two men standing before him raised their shovels in an attack posture. With a graceful and swift motion, the grad student took a swing at the sheriff striking him hard on the shoulder, knocking him down, crashing to the ground. Stunned and dazed, the sheriff pulled his 38-caliber pistol, raised the gun and popped off six rounds into the men, dropping them to the ground. The lanterns fell and the lights went out, and in the darkness the sheriff’s eye’s glowed red. "You should never bring a knife to a gun fight," he said out loud.
|Morning Star chapter 24||Morning Star chapter 14|
|Morning Star chapter 9||Morning Star chapter 28|
|Morning Star chapter 1||Morning Star chapter 4|