Nowadays, everyone is obsessed with space. Space shuttles, Mars rovers, rocket launches, and let’s not forget the recent Solar Eclipse that captivated the USA. Millions of people, including me, watched it from their devices. The only difference is that I watched it from 20,000 ft below the surface of the Earth. Ironic, isn’t it? Welcome to the Underground Project.
The Underground Project, or UP for short, was originally designed to be an extremely deep bomb shelter during World War II for those who could, and would, pay to stay alive. Everyone not blinded by fear knew that the air raid shelters they were hiding under would most likely collapse, killing the very people they were supposed to protect. So, a group of wealthy families hired the top civil engineers at the time to design and build a communal shelter for those who could afford it. Wouldn’t want those bank accounts vaporizing. The shelter was called Project Lazard after the German -yes, German- head engineer. After the designs were finally finished, the construction of the shelter had barely scratched the surface (literally) by time the war ended, so Project Lazard was abandoned due to lack of funding. As people began to realize that history repeats itself, a new group of engineers restarted Project Lazard, renaming it the Underground Project.
This was about 20 years ago, and the UP is still not done. That doesn’t mean it isn’t habitable, it just means that the sheer size of it has delayed the finish date quite a bit, and the growing population has pushed it even further into the future. The Engines (what we call the people who build and maintain the UP) have a saying: “We’ll become fossil fuels before it’s finished UP.” Actually, they never say anything that stupid. That’s something most of the residents like to say, along with “time’s UP” and “I project that it will use UP all our resources”. The population down here has an abnormal appreciation for puns.
How do we stay alive almost four miles below sea level in the Earth’s mantle? Highly advanced fluid cooling systems in the walls, a structure that resists the pressure almost equal to eleven blue whales resting on every square inch, so that we aren’t instantly turned into grease puddles, and really really great air conditioning. I’m not even kidding, at times it feels like my nose could snap off due to the cold.
It’s scary to think that at any moment, if one system fails, then we all die. There are backups, but those aren’t permanent solutions. If the Engines die, we die. If the farms fail, we die. If there’s a virus outbreak, we die. If we run out of ice cream, everyone else dies while I raid their freezers. There are many things that can go wrong. Now, you might be wondering how I sleep at night knowing I could die at any sec-
I’m kidding, I didn’t die, I just wanted to see whether you’ve become invested in my story yet.
Honestly, even though so much can go wrong down here, it’s much safer than the surface. Down here we have a controlled environment, while the Surfers (our term for people who live on the surface) have almost no control of what happens in their atmosphere, and don’t seem to care either way. They can’t even control the weather. Wimps, all of them.
Since the topic’s strayed, let’s end on this: my name is Murphy, and once again, welcome to the Underground Project.