Nathan James was one hell of a fruit-cake. I couldn’t come up with any other way to describe him, yet, there I was, out in the middle of nowhere, in a factory town attached to what had been an open pit mine, to interview him about his pet project.
“That’s a rather big hole in the ground, Mr. James.”
“Needs to be. Only way to make it deep enough.”
I hoped the video team was getting lots of footage of the Caterpillar 797 dump trucks driving in and out of that hole. “They tell me you are trying to prove hell exists?”
“It’s true.” Nathan nodded. “I’m going to dig here until we reach it. Then, no one can say it doesn’t exist.”
From the air, looking down at the pit, it looked like they’d dug a mountain sized hole. “How far do you think you have to dig?”
“30 to 40 miles.”
I kept reminding myself to not laugh, I was doing my job, making an interview for the news program. A human interest story. I had to wonder how many humans would be interested in this guy. “That’s a long way. The deepest we’ve ever dug is 7.5 miles, and it took them 20 years to get that deep.”
“That was a bore hole.” Nathan nodded. “Only 9 inches wide. That’s why it took so long to get that deep. They couldn’t use better techniques.”
I looked at the pit again. “Better techniques?”
“We’re able to drill small holes, and use explosives to fracture the rock. We can also move around large blockages. They couldn’t.” Nathan looked outside. “It’s like clearing a path for a road through the mountains.”
It defied my imagination, “How wide would you have to build this to get 30 miles deep?”
“Don’t really know. No one’s ever tried.” He laughed.
“And you’re convinced it’s there?”
“Oh, it’s there. Down where the rock melts, and gets soft. The heat and the pressure down there is hell. Literally.” He paused, “They gave up drilling when the heat and pressure got so much, the bits stopped working. You can’t go deeper unless you make an open pit.” He paused again. “The pressure and heat melted their drill. They had to use titanium and diamond to drill. Very expensive.”
“Did they reach hell?”
“No, they did not. They barely got deep enough to notice any signs that it’s down there.”
I wanted to ask him about science, about how spherical planets form, and how gravity, heat, and pressure melts the interior, and it separates into layers, heaviest at the center, and lightest at the surface.
It was like he knew that, “I’m also proving the flat earth people are fruit loops.” Nathan laughed. “You might want to use another set of words.” He laughed more. “You can’t have those layers in a flat earth. To do that, you need a round, spherical object. Also demonstrating you can’t dig through the flat earth. That you dig through layers.”
I stared out the window at the pit a moment, “Have you found anything interesting so far? Do you expect to find interesting things as you dig?”
“We have found a few fossils. The deeper we dug, the further back in time we went. But, we’re deep enough at the center now that we’re past the fossils. Now, it’s unknown bacteria.”
“Yes. That stuff lives in the harshest conditions. Any kind of crack in the rock, any kind of surface, they turn up. Living on the heat, and on minerals.”
“How will you know when you find hell?”
“That will be where damned souls are. We won’t be able to see them any more than you can see them now. But we’ll know they’re there. We’ll sense their screams of agony.”
“Where they get endlessly crushed, and burned, and ground to nothing.”
I must have looked pretty funny when he said that, because he continued. “When we reach the place where nothing could possibly live. That’s when we’ll have found hell.”
It was the strangest interview I’d ever done, interviewing a filthy rich fruit cake with a pipe dream of finding hell, and proving it exists. Don’t think it’s what I’d have done with all those billions of dollars.
Written in response to the prompt for week 160 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.