The Cave of the Third Sun
I crawled from the ledge onto what looked like a meadow. At the edge of the ledge and the grass, I saw an ant hill. Turning onto my back, I looked up to see a blue sky, a bright sun, a drifting cloud, and Utcoozhoo. I said, “Are we outside?”
“No,” said Utcoozhoo, “this is the Tzvaleubhoi, the ‘Cave of the Third Sun’.”
“That’s a Sun?”
“In a sense it is, but much cooler. It is much, much, cooler than the sun. It would have to be 93 million miles away if it were as hot as the sun, but this sun is very close to us.”
Still recovering from the swim, I thought I must be dizzy and disoriented, because I felt like I was on a roller coaster, like a wave just passed under me. I said, “I feel like I’m floating on the ocean, and a wave just passed under me … I must be getting sick or something.”
“No. I felt that too. That’s a small earthquake …” Utcoozhoo was distracted, looked into the distance. Dodging a butterfly, a plump but frail man in a blue robe limped around a tree, sun-coated with enjoyment, lynx-eyed. Utcoozhoo ran the last few feet to embrace him. “Naztko, how are you? I want you to meet Doug.”
I struggled to get up. I think I had a leg cramp.
He said, “No need to get up. Just rest. Nice to meet you Doug, and now you see why we can’t swim out of here. I’m afraid I’ve become too fat and lazy to swim out of the tunnels.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, Sir,” I said.
Utcoozhoo said to Naztko, “I just felt an earthquake.”
“Yes. We’ve been feeling quite a few tremors, and something is very odd.”
“The far outer wall is very hot. We think someone has activated the pfayohiqusi of the third kind without permission.”
“There is heat venting?”
“Yes, I suspect a magma reservoir is forming. I could be mistaken — it may just be some natural process, but …”
“Some of the quakes seem consistent with unauthorized drilling.”
“Give me all the reports you have, and I’ll look into it. You see, like I’ve been telling you (actually, Doug got me started on this), here’s an example of where modern technology can help us analyze a situation. The traditional ways are not always sufficient.”
“I’ve been worried enough to think you might have a point. Something doesn’t feel right to me. I’ve a very bad feeling about Zusoiti. I don’t know how to explain this insight, but I think the way I could put it is that, somehow, Zusoiti is creating what perhaps I should call an interface between pfayohiqusi and modern technologies. I don’t know how to describe my vision because I’m not familiar with modern technology… Do you know what this might be?”
“Well, if she could build a modern device that would simulate the steps that a person would apply to operate the pfayohiqusi, and then connected that modern device to the Internet, she could have a remote station anywhere … Does this make sense to you?”
“Yes, I think I see where you’re going. That’s scary …”
“Well, anyway, that’s just speculation. In the meantime, we’re going to need your vote.”
“This scuba gear that you want to order will let us swim out?”
“Let me read about it … I’m not sure if I like this up-top technology.”
We felt another earthquake, this one much stronger. Part of the ledge cracked off and fell into the entrance tunnel.
I said, “Uncle Utcoozhoo is this serious?”
“I don’t know. If the tunnels become blocked, there will be a dilemma.”
Naztko said, “What dilemma? If the entrance tunnel collapses, you’ll just stay here forever. What’s the problem? We’re self-sufficient.”
“You miss the point,” shouted Utcoozhoo, “a tyrant may seize absolute power, and even you will not be safe from her reach.”
There was another small tremor. Utcoozhoo ran to the ledge, looked into the water. “That does it, I must go to the Forbidden Zone immediately.”
I got up and peered into the entrance tunnel. It was still clear, but a few large boulders had fallen into it. “Maybe we should go now and get help,” I said.
“Not yet,” said Utcoozhoo, “I must reactivate the dormant pfayohiqusi that serve the Tzvaleubhoi exclusively. Each of the pfayohoqwaahujpi must be brought on-line in sequence …”
Naztko said, “No, you must not. You cannot enter the Forbidden Zone until the Gods return.”
“I must. It is pcapdyntpa. As a member of the Grand Council, I hereby declare an emergency.”
Naztko was stunned. He straightened his back, stood as tall as he could, said, “Do you swear by the sacred oath, by the Gydm, that this, in holy purpose, is pcapdyntpa?”
Utcoozhoo said, “I do.”
I said, “Wha…”
“Doug, wait here,” said Utcoozhoo.
Utcoozhoo ran across the meadow, past a willow tree, over a hill, around a steep cliff, and disappeared.
Naztko said, “Doug, I’m sorry we have to meet under such strange circumstances, but I’ve heard some good things about you. How is Zawmb’yee?”
We were both uncomfortable, but made a lot of small talk. We walked a short distance across the meadow where Naztko showed me his orchard.
I said, “I can’t get over how it seems like I am outside. Is this a complete ecosystem?”
“Well, mostly. It’s just that the Gods have provided the energy source here to sustain all life, whereas, up-top the Sun is the source of life-sustaining energy. Well, I guess you could say that the main problem is expelling the heat that is generated by the pfayohiqusi. Up until now, it has seemed like the volcanoes have done a good job managing the heat flow …”