Monday, November 23, 2015

The Underground Railroad

Terminus: Ellery Island (Bartram, another day).
That is done. It is done, my one major craft, and hopefully the penultimate miracle I manage in this insane and contradictory world. I have recreated the Underground Railroad...

Hmm. As accurate as that may be in a strictly geological sense, my meager joke seems to me disrespectful of the endeavors of my family and our actual support to facilitate the escape and liberation of fellow enslaved humans. While I do like a petty witticism now and then, it should not be the dispensation of one class to mock the plight and suffering of those in a disadvantaged class. It is neither brave nor clever—and certainly it is in no sense noble—to capitalize upon the misery of others for one's idle amusement. Mock yourself, poke holes in those above you, but do not admire yourself for ridiculing human tragedy.

To bring the reader up to date, should one be so inclined to hear a whole lot of nothing, I have been laid up a fortnight while my sorely tried body manages its miracle of healing and regeneration. The diligent reader will no doubt be familiar with my misgivings against wanton advances in technology. I'll assume this is true, for the sake of my little observation now, though my book sales would suggest a less-than-rapt audience.

Kilometers and kilometers of this. Occasionally lava pools.
I think it is not wrong of me to think thus against technological advances: not only does it require greater effort and money to create these wonders of convenience than it would take to perform manual labor ourselves, but the fact of these devices separates ourselves from the natural world. How marvelous, that we have strung up miles of cable from Maine to Texas that they may communicate more instantly than by post. What, I beg of you, has Maine been dying to say to Texas all this time that necessitates the fabrication of so convoluted a mechanism? I hope Texas has got everything off its chest, after all the back-breaking labor of mining, engineering and construction that went into this marvelous little short-cut, and that Maine is no longer losing sleep, waiting for urgent, time-sensitive missives from its semicontinental beloved.

Well, this is not (I hope) the first time I have had to retract an earlier assertion in light of newer and better information. Please strike from the record any complaints I may have lodged about rail service, for although it may serve me in the future to ship minecarts heavily laden with ore and gems back to my ostensible headquarters, there was no short-cut in labor to manually construct several kilometers of railway entirely by hand, from smelting the ore and forging it into rails, to laying the track and installing the power grids to propel the carts independently for the entire length, including stops at various depots, from the villagers' former cabin to my point of origin.

Days and nights have passed exactly here, no further.
Indeed, I'm not entirely sure why my spirit hasn't fled my expended and abused body. Instead, I have lain in bed in the villagers' cabin, my hands blistered and cramped, my spine contorted with pain, my lungs failing with weeks of impure, fetid air from forgotten caverns. I spared as little effort as was requisite to store up several gallons of rabbit stew and a dozen loaves of bread, keeping these at my bedside. I locked the door fast but left the windows open, gratefully gulping down fresh, clean ocean air at my leisure. As well, I cannot seem to get enough sunshine to my liking. To feel it glow against my skin or warm my coat is personally delighting. Half a hectometer below the sea, a blazing torch is poor substitute for the nourishing rays of our white sun.

I sigh a lot. The open wounds on my hands have healed into dense calluses; between that and having firmly grasped a mattock, with the unending series of jarring shocks that it produced, my poor fingers are ill-suited to delicately work a quill. This entry has taken me over an hour to manage, interspersed with awful cramps and nervous twitching.

The crops and livestock have been perfectly fine, unattended.
Looking around the room, I wonder what this sparse, humble space has to say about me. I don't relate to it at all: I have spent weeks hewing a channel far beneath the Sewall Sea, drilling a 3m x 3m corridor into solid rock (occasionally coal, andesite, and rarely ores). I look at wooden walls, a wooden ceiling, and the cobblestone floor. None of it needs to expand, no wall needs to be removed that it can stretch outward interminably. This building is done, it is complete unto itself. In this sense, it is entirely unalike my project of the fortnight, and it does not resemble me.

There is so much work I need to do on myself, I know this now. Yet much of that work will be in examining what, exactly, is wrong with me that the world ejected me to this purgatory. That is how I see it, and there is no better theory to contradict me (save that sometimes stuff just happens, which I can hardly accept).

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