On the 24th of May 1970, the Soviet Union started a project that would be known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole (Кольская сверхглубокая скважина). Although it has been long since abandoned the hole still exists today, and measures about 40 000 feet in depth.
Be it for research or whatever claim have been told; The Kola Borehole is not the only time Russia dug further than they should have, and several holes can still be found today, unprotected in the desolate Russian wilderness.
The biggest mistake of my life is going down one of these holes.
A year ago my work took me to a small Russian fishing village located in Siberia. It’s a tiny place populated by no more than 200 people, most of them fishermen or hunters.
It wasn’t the first time being a scientist had gotten me into strange situations. I’m a geologist, which is not important for the purpose of this story, but I have experience in search and rescue operations back home in the United States.
My Russian language abilities were less than satisfactory, and considering only two people beside my crew spoke English in the village, it was a challenge to say the least. However, with the right spirit and willingness to share a bottle of vodka, they were some of the friendliest people I’d met in my entire life.
I particularly enjoyed the company of the village’s only ‘police’ officer, Vadim, who happened to speak at least a basic level of English. His job mostly consisted of escorting people home after they had a bit too much to drink, although he oftentimes partook in the drinking rather than stopping it. Needless to say, we quickly became good friends.
We rather enjoyed ourselves in such a bizarre world, cut off from civilisation. At least we did until the ninth month of our deployment.
One of the local’s seven year old daughter had gone missing.
Her name was Daria, and she had been out playing with her friends around an old abandoned building widely believed to be a soviet era silo. The whole structure had been closed off for almost forty years and forgotten, yet the children loved hanging out in the area.
On that particular day the ‘silo’ was open. The doors were broken down which revealed a large room full of ancient equipment, and a large, dark hole in the centre.
The hole measured about 50 feet in diameter, and the depth was unknown. There was a basic elevator platform in the centre of the hole, like something used for descending mines. All that could be seen was endless darkness reaching into the abyss, Daria had fallen into it.
I immediately knew in my heart that the fall had killed her. A fall that deep, even if the bottom was a pool of water, it would be lethal.
The other children insisted that Daria had called out for help after falling into the hole, which gave out false hope to the terrified mother.
It was the first time I had seen Vadim efficiently work to put together a rescue operation. Calling for official aid so far out was a hopeless task, even if they sent help they would arrive too late.
Seeing as I had some experience in that field, alongside basic first aid, I volunteered, as did one of my colleagues, Stanley.
While the mechanics attempted to revive the old machinery, Including the elevator, I attached a sinker to a line in hopes of measuring the depth. The line wasn’t long enough to determine where the bottom was, even though the longest ropes combined measured almost 1000 feet.
After a couple of hours the mechanics announced that the elevator was ready, but they had found some sort of protective suits. According to the few documents found in the facility, the atmospheric pressure was quite high and the temperatures reached up to 150°F.
I knew then we would retrieve nothing but the body of a little girl for the family to bury.
“Gotov, ready?” Vadim asked us.
The suits were poorly fitted to our slightly untrained figures and chafed in places I didn’t know it was possible. We entered the lift, which was protected by a rusty metal cage full of holes.
We were given only one walkie-talkie to communicate with the people on the surface, in addition to some old flashlights.
“We’re ready, lower us down.” Stanley said.
The gears running the elevator platform started churning, a clunky sound echoed through the room down the hole. There was a small screen on the elevator with numbers signifying the depth. It was an excruciatingly slow process, no more than a foot per second. However, the change in atmosphere was imminent.
Darkness had already enveloped us, the weak flashlights we had brought along hardly provided any comfort.
“You think this is dark, wait till you see winter in village.” Vadim said, his usual dull humour.
Me and Stanley both faked a chuckle.
“Would you please check if the radio works, Vadim?” I asked.
“It works, no worries.” He responded.
The walkie sounded for the first time since our descent almost ten minutes ago, the Russian was heavy and the static made it incomprehensible to a novice such as myself.
“What was that, Vadim?” I asked.
“Oh, they just ask how deep we are.”
“Shouldn’t we be able to hear them talking? We’re only 500 feet down.” Stanley asked.
“Yes, something strange here.” Vadim said.
Other than the electrical hum of the ancient elevator, and the sound of Stanley nervously shifting his weight, we couldn’t hear the chatter of people just above us.
“Very strange.” Vadim mumbled to himself.
Something about Vadim seemed off. I had never seen him worried like that before.
“Guys, is it getting really warm here or is it just me?”
“Yeah, I’m sweating bullets already.” I responded.
“Pomogite!” A soft voice cried out from the depths below.
“Did you hear that?” I asked.
“Someone called for help from below.”
“I hear nothing.”
I put a finger to my lips, gesturing for silence while listening attentively. Then I heard the voice again.
“Help!” The same voice, but slightly louder.
“There it was again!”
“Yes, I heard it.” Vadim said.
“Hold on, they called for help?”
“Yes, you heard it too?”
“Of course, but it was in English.”
It wasn’t too unusual for the children to pick up on an English word or two while we were visiting, but this wasn’t that, it didn’t make sense for a young girl to know that word, not in a tiny Siberian village.
Vadim called out for the voice, but no one responded.
“Damn it, can we make this thing go any faster?”
More than an hour had passed and we couldn’t see the bottom yet. It had been quite some time since we heard the voice and I had developed a throbbing headache from the heat.
If someone had really called out from the bottom we should have reached it already.
“Guys, I see light!” Vadim announced.
“What are you talking about?”
“Light, at bottom, look!” He frantically jumped up and down while pointing towards the darkness below.
“There’s nothing there, Vadim.” Stanley said.
“How can you not see, it’s so bright!”
I glanced over at Stanley in confusion. My first thought was that Vadim was going crazy due to the heat and darkness.
None of us had said a single word since Vadim told us about the light. Our moods were descending much faster than the elevator, on top of that my headache was almost killing me.
Out of nowhere the elevator stopped, shaking violently in the process. It knocked me straight to the floor and I was out in an instant.
A few seconds passed while I came back to it, and I saw Stanley lying unmoving next to me. Vadim, however, was nowhere to be found.
“Stan, are you alright?” I shook his shoulder.
He grunted as he sat back up. “What the hell just happened?”
“I don’t know man, but Vadim’s gone!”
“What, where did he go?”
“I don’t know, he just vanished.”
We looked around, there was no way out of the elevator, although there were a few holes in the metal cage surrounding us it would still be impossible for a large man such as Vadim to get through.
“Hey, I found the walkie.” Stanley said.
“Try calling the surface.”
He called for help, but static was the only response. We tried to call out for Vadim, but he was far gone. The elevator started descending again.
“Fuck this, let’s go back up.” Stanley pleaded.
I clicked a few buttons on the panel.
“How? The controls are broken, only the ones at the surface work.”
He started screaming for the people up top to bring us back, but we both knew there was no way they could hear us all the way down there.
10 000 feet:
It had taken more than four hours to get that deep, the heat getting worse for each feet descended. I had already passed out a couple times from dehydration, despite having brought an ample amount of water.
“Why haven’t they brought us back up yet?” Stanley asked with a weak voice.
He was quite a bit older than myself, so he was rapidly deteriorating from the heat.
“I don’t know. Is it even possible to be this far down?”
Stanley didn’t respond. He had fallen unconscious, but I lacked the energy to wake him up.
I was about to pass out for the nth time myself. I was only jolted back into consciousness by what sounded like singing. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, in Russian and I didn’t understand what it was about, but it was so serene, so pure.
“Stan.” I called out with my fading voice. “Can you hear that?”
“Who’s singing?” He mumbled, half asleep.
A light appeared in the depths, and the singing got louder.
“I see it! The light!” I said.
The elevator stopped once more. Stan was gone. Just like Vadim he had vanished into thin air, but the light remained, the beautiful warm light. It started moving towards me, and the closer it got, the more at peace I felt.
The light ascended until I saw nothing but the brightness surrounding me.
Then there was nothing…
I woke up in a hospital one week later. I had been found in the middle of a forest in eastern Russia, by a pair of hunters. I had no documentation or proof of who I was, and as they claimed: My story didn’t add up.
No such hole existed according to public records, which wasn’t much of a surprise, but when I dug deeper I realised the village I had stayed in for the better part of a year wasn’t even on the map.
The ordeal had taken a toll on my mind, leaving several gaps in my memory, though I could recall a few phone-numbers for my colleagues.
When I called them their numbers were all either disconnected or reached completely unrelated people.
After a lengthy investigation I was allowed to travel back to the United States on an emergency travel document, my finger prints matched some documentation of my existence, which helped; Not criminal records mind you.
When I returned home I discovered that my house was owned by someone else, and had been for at least ten years. It took me a long time to figure out what had happened, but some changes were too big to be a horrible coincidence.
Putting aside the personal changes I’ve experienced here, even world history doesn’t match what I remember studying. Geography is vastly different, heck there’s an entire continent missing from the map.
Denial is a powerful tool. It took me months to come to terms with a very simple, yet complicated fact…
…this is not the world I belong to.
My wife left me last winter. I’d like to say it was undeserved, but the truth was I had been slowly making the transition from social drinker to sloppy drunk for the past several years. If I ever was, I had stopped being a good husband or father the last couple of years for sure, and it’s a miracle Sandra tried as long as she did before packing up our little girls and moving back to her old hometown.
After several months of self-pity and self-loathing, I began getting my shit together. I started attending group meetings, working harder at my job, and rebuilding a life for myself and the people I love. I never had any illusions of me and my wife getting back together—some things can’t be unsaid or undone. But I did want to be a good father again. I wanted to gain joint custody and have a home that my kids could come and feel comfortable in—not the forced march trips I had seen with some divorced fathers who either didn’t really want to see their kids or at least did very little to make a place for a child in their lives and their houses.
So I fixed up bedrooms for both of them. They came with their mother and picked out the colors for the walls and the furniture they wanted. I was excited to see them, but also for them to have a chance to see me. Sandra hugged me when they left, telling me that she was so happy I was doing so much better. And if I could keep it up, she added, she’d be happy to agree to joint custody.
This just motivated me further. Summer was coming up in a couple of months, and my hope was that I could get time with them during their break from school. So I looked up summer programs, found attractions and parks we could go to, and set about getting someone to put in a swimming pool.
We had talked about getting a swimming pool for years, but had never had the money. Surprisingly, working hard and not pissing away large chunks of money on booze allowed me to save up enough for a good down payment on the pool fairly quickly. By May I had workers out in my back yard with a backhoe. It was a Saturday, and I was watching them with interest and satisfaction as they began digging out the space for the pool. Within minutes they had a good portion of it dug, but then they stopped amid waved arms and yelling. I stepped outside to see what the commotion was.
Rick Jarvis, the contractor on the job, came up to me with a strange look on his face. “Mr. Sullivan, do you know anything about someone being buried on this property?”
I started to laugh, but it died in my throat as I realized he was serious. “No, of course not. Are you saying you found someone buried in my yard?”
He shrugged before taking off his hat and mopping his forehead with the back of his hand. “I dunno yet. The boys are still getting it up, but they think they hit a coffin down there.”
The coffin was a seven-foot long, three foot wide wooden box that had been buried some ten feet down in our yard sometime before we had moved in a decade earlier. I felt the weight of dread and anxiety as they pulled the box free from the ground with yellow straps and slid it onto the grass a few feet away. One of the men approached Jarvis and told him they thought it was empty because it was so light, and after nodding, Jarvis turned back to me.
“It’s your call, sir. It may be some weird old prank or something. We can open it up and see if anything is even inside, and if there’s not, no harm no foul. We just go back to digging. Or we can go ahead and call the authorities, but that’s going to slow things down whether there’s a body in there or not.”
I glanced at the partially-dug hole and the coffin. More time would mean more money. And it wouldn’t hurt just to look. I turned back to the contractor and nodded. “Yeah, go ahead and check it out. No need to call somebody unless we find something.”
Jarvis grinned and called a couple of his men over with a crowbar. With a bit of grunting and the squeal of rusty nails, they pried the top off the coffin. I stepped closer as the wooden lid fell aside and felt a surge of relief when I saw it was empty. Well, mostly empty. There were several sheets of paper scattered across the coffin floor as well as a small, mostly corroded metal flashlight that looked a good forty or fifty years old. Looking closer, one of the men also picked out a small black rock and the stub of an old wooden pencil.
Jarvis collected the items and held them out to me like an offering. “Where do you want me to put these things, sir? They’re yours, after all.” His expression was unreadable, but I could hear a wire of tension reverberating in his words. I almost told him to just throw it all away, but I had seen writing on those pages and was curious. So I just took the items and carried them inside. When I came back out, I stopped two men from dragging the coffin away, telling them that I’d take care of it. I didn’t want them wasting any more time, and I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with it yet anyway. They had already set the lid back on top, so I dragged the entire thing around to the side of my garage before setting it down. As I did so, the lid slid off again and landed with the interior side face up for the first time.
The inside of the lid was covered in scratches. Darkly stained scratches that could have easily been old dried blood. My skin crawling, I leaned closer and saw what looked like a small piece of fingernail jutting out of one of the deep grooves in the stained wood. How was any of this possible? Surely it was all fake or there’d be a body, right?
Glancing around, I saw no one else could see the lid from where they were working, and I found myself secretly hoping they hadn’t noticed it before. I wanted time to think before anyone started yelling someone had been murdered or buried alive on the very spot I was planning on putting a pool for my little girls. Covering the coffin with a tarp from the garage, I went back inside to look at the items we had found.
The rock was a small, flat oval of smooth black stone, and holding it in the palm of my hand I was surprised by its weight and how cool it felt. It had an almost greasy texture to it, and after a few moments I put it down with mild disgust. The flashlight didn’t work, of course, but from what I could make out of its shape underneath the green rust, it reminded me of flashlights I had seen at my grandfather’s house as a child. He had worked as a plumber most of his life, and he always kept a large silver flashlight close at hand.
The pencil, such as it was, consisted of an inch-long nub of wood lacquered with faded green paint and stamped with barely legible letters in what was once gold foil. Part of the name had been obliterated by sharpening, but when I held it to the light coming through the window I could make out “Greenheart Ho”. It didn’t ring a bell, so I set it aside and began to glance through the papers. The paper was clearly old and of very high quality. It felt more like a bedsheet than paper I was used to, and I was impressed it had survived so long in the damp of the earth.
But not only had it survived, it was fairly legible. Most of the pages were filled with a neat, slanted pencil scrawl and clearly numbered as pages of a long letter. The last was written in larger, harsh slashes across the entirety of one sheet. The black lines of lead seemed to scream from the page:
DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING FROM THE COFFIN. BURY IT AGAIN AND FOREVER. DO NOT TOUCH THE STONE. DO NOT ANSWER THE GRAVEKEEPER.
My mouth went dry as I read the words. This didn’t feel like some kind of strange joke, and my curiosity had curdled into an acid fear deep in my belly. At that moment, I felt certain in my actions, in my conviction that I needed to do what the message demanded, at least as best I could. I gathered up the other pages and pencil, intent on putting everything back in the coffin and telling them to rebury it. The pool could wait or go somewhere else. I’m not superstitious by nature, but something was very wrong with all of this and I wanted no part of it.
I stopped short when I realized I didn’t see the stone. Swallowing hard, I checked under the table and all around the floor. As I grew more desperate and tried to allow for some miracle of physics that had led to the stone rolling a farther distance, I spread out my search as I tossed my living room and adjoining rooms for the small black rock. But nothing. It was just gone.
There was no chance someone had taken it. I had been standing less than two feet from it the entire time from when I set it down to when I saw it was missing. Still, I found myself considering asking the men outside anyway if anyone had seen it or taken it. I felt foolish at the thought, but my self-consciousness was being outpaced by my growing dread. Reaching for the door that led out to where they were working, I froze as I looked out the window.
All work had stopped and most of the men were gathering around Rick Jarvis, who was thrashing about on the ground as though he was having some kind of fit. My first thought was epilepsy, but then I realized he was screaming. He was clawing at his eyes as he wailed, and even from a distance I could see blood slinging off onto the freshly turned earth and surrounding work boots. And his men, his friends and workers, they weren’t trying to help him at all. They were just watching.
My mom finally completed her biggest counted cross-stitch masterpiece on linen which took over 3 years to complete and has over 606,800 stitches. We are unable to transport and enter this monster in any competitions so I figured I would share her stunning artwork here.