Snakes and Pills

140 - fable

Morgan idly stared out the window of the helicopter. This was not the first time he had been in a helicopter, but it was the first time he was in one that was out over the open ocean. The white-capped blue down below looked very peaceful, and he thought about how hard it was for humans to comprehend the vastness of the ocean. If he fell out of the chopper right now, they would probably never find his body.

Well, maybe they would, he thought. What did he know? Either way, he scooched back in his seat, toward the center of the vehicle, and made sure his harnesses were secure. He didn't really want to find out if his theory was correct.

As the helicopter approached its tiny island destination, Morgan's interest in the window was once again piqued. Though fieldwork had briefly taken him to South America, for the most part his research was limited to the theoretical realm, which allowed him to work comfortably within the confines of a big city. Seeing something so desolate and untouched was strange to him.

But as the helicopter maneuvered around a small mountain ridge, the scenery changed very quickly. A huge swath of the jungle had been cleared, and around the periphery, Morgan spotted buildings that seemed to be part of a normal, albeit large, portable research station. The amount of support materiel suggested that whatever was being studied required a lot of manpower, though.

The centerpiece of these operations was a large, circular domed structure. The immensity was overwhelming to Morgan, and all signs pointed to something major being hidden under this dome, though it looked rather flimsy, as if it had been hastily constructed.

Getting a phone call out of the blue requesting his presence in the middle of the Pacific Ocean had been strange enough. When he had asked why, and was told that he could only know after he arrived, he was even more puzzled and intrigued. Seeing this giant dome in the middle of an otherwise pristine island now filled him with all kinds of anticipation. The helicopter couldn't touch down on the helipad fast enough.

When Morgan finally disembarked, a man in a white lab coat was waiting nearby to greet him. Shaking hands, the man asked, "Doctor Morgan, I presume?" After confirming Morgan's identity, the man introduced himself as a research assistant on the project, and started to lead him toward one of the research buildings surrounding the dome.

"Sorry for all the cloak and dagger stuff," the man said. "To tell you the truth, nobody really knows what we're dealing with, so I guess they're just erring on the side of safety. You'll know pretty much everything we know soon enough."

The building Morgan was brought to was right on the edge of the dome. It looked like all the others, but the sign on the front identified it as Operational Headquarters. Inside, he was ushered into a meeting room, and introduced to the director of the project.

"I'll get straight to business with you, Doctor Morgan. Here are the facts: a week and a half ago, satellite imagery discovered something very unusual happening on this previously-uninhabited island which you and I are both standing on. Multiple re-passes confirmed that it wasn't simply an imaging error, so a team was mobilized to investigate here on the ground. They found a perfectly-circular hole, with a diameter of exactly 500 meters, and a currently unknown depth."

"Unknown?" Morgan interrupted.

"That's right. We have been unable to reach or determine the bottom, by sensor or other means. Basically, for all intents and purposes, we're looking at a huge bottomless pit," the director said.

Morgan had to ask the obvious question: "So, uh, what is it?"

The director grinned. "Why do you think you're here?"


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