Aug 12
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Igniting Writing ‘Explore’ Contest 2019, Submission by Cameron from Igniting Writing

We have just received another ‘Explore’ themed teen creative writing contest entry, submitted by Cameron from Igniting Writing! The competition, led in tandem by Igniting Writing, Lake Erie Ink, Fighting Words and Young Writers Project, is now up to five entries and this is the second from an Igniting Writing group member. Cameron’s entry is titled ‘The World Inside the World’ and it’s a very different take on the explore theme, going with a writing style reminiscent of a Victorian adventure or a Utopian exploration! Have a read of Cameron’s contest entry here:

So it was, that in the Autumn of 1916 – while the War to End All Wars was raging away in the thundering west – the crew, the Intrepid Explorers for Pay (otherwise known as the IEP) in their black machine: a flying vehicle based upon the indomitable sketchings of a certain Leonardo Da Vinci, turned North and flew towards the Arctic – wherein their next commission lingered.

Now, it would not be correct to say that the IEP lived out their lives in the occupation of professional explorers extraordinaire; instead, it would be much more correct to say that they were mercenaries, who specialised in the particular niceties of exploration, adventure and dangerous but exhilarating research.

The Intrepid Explorers for Pay’s newest client was a shadowy company that had called the crew to an unknown location somewhere near the North Pole, though the exact co-ordinates were undefined and the IEP found themselves flying by ear. The client was a business calling itself Manumissions LLC, and, according to the representative who had approached the Captain of the IEP, were “a company who makes considerable profit out of selling armaments to revolutionaries trying to dethrone tyrants and/or bureaucratic tyrannies. We have done business in the past with a certain Gavrilo Princip, and we have just done a very lucrative transaction with a Russian: a Mr Lenin, a Bolshevik… though, I’m sure he won’t amount to much.”

The IEP themselves were made up of three members. Captain John Schmitt was a German who had lived in England for fifteen years but had fled the country to join and take command of the crew after a wave of anti-German sentiment swept the West coinciding with the birth of the Great War. He spoke with a perfect English accent which only took on German inflections in times of great stress or excitement, and dressed in an impeccable suit which suffused him in an air of reliability.

First Officer Lord Rexford was the oldest member of the IEP and seemed in his bearing and mannerisms the perfect embodiment of the bureaucrat. When he spoke, it was in the Queen’s English, and his posture and actions were modelled on those of a perfect gentleman.

The third member of the crew was Weapons Officer Miss De Trice. She was an anomaly, not only was she the first ever female aeronaut in recorded history, but she was also the first ever aeronaut whose first name was unknown to just about everyone apart from herself. Nevertheless, she performed her duties aboard the black machine with consummate ease and brilliance. And so, armed with its three bumbling, bless’d, and byzantine human cargo, the black machine of the Intrepid Explorers for Pay flew high over the icy tundra, towards where Manumissions (LLC) officials waited on the ice, gesturing and waving to the adventurers above.

“Our job for you is an interesting one indeed! and one that we hope you can take upon yourselves with the same confidence that you exhibited when communicating with our representative.” So said a tall company official, standing beside a wide and deep hole that penetrated the ice very near to the centre of the North Pole.

“Please don’t keep on old fellow,” said First Officer Lord Rexford. “Just tell us our job, what what. I say this with the utmost respect you understand, what.”

“Yes,” said Captain Schmitt. “My first officer of course speaks the truth. We are people who enjoy doing jobs in the shortest space of time as is efficient; it would be very pleasing to us if you could tell us the purpose of our hiring so that we could get to it straight away. We, my good sir, do not hang around.”

“Well yes of course,” said the official smiling with cold, expressionless eyes. “This hole,” and he pointed to the immensity before them, “is a direct route down into the centre of the Earth. We as an organisation are fascinated with the idea that the planet is hollow and the latest scientific studies show that this is almost certain to be the truth. Your job is to fly down that hole in your craft and investigate the hollow Earth. Return and report to us about what you find and you will have a rich reward,” he said, sneering.

Inside the hole the air was cold; all three of the members of the IEP wore their warmest clothing and huddled over their instruments as they sent the flying machine into a faster and faster dive through the bowels of the planet. Then, with a sudden burst of heat the machine exploded into the widest space that any of the IEP had ever seen. They were hanging near the roof of a well-lit cavern and looked down on a gargantuan expanse of lustrous foliage: tall and steaming forests and vast fields and…

“Is that a village…? No, a city… No, a town!” exclaimed Weapons Officer De Trice. And it was, a large collection of tall houses and other structures that were too numerous to be a town and too few to be a city.

“Quick,” said Captain Schmitt, “set a course for the town. This! all of this! It is amazing.”

They flew, and then touched down in a wheat field near the town which puffed smoke into the thick air from a dozen chimneys. Yet when the IEP emerged blinking into the light of the subterranean day, they found themselves surrounded by soldiers.

“Are you emissaries of the Inner Earth Empire?” asked a soldier.

“No!”

“Then come with us, you must be from Outer Earth, welcome to the free colony of Virginia.” The three were escorted through the town until they reached the largest and longest city hall. Taken up winding steps they were brought into the presence of the Mayor of the town, an old woman with strange, careworn features and an accent reminiscent of old cave systems and dripping stalactites. Informed of their coming and of them being inhabitants of the Outer Earth, she smiled at them and after refreshments were brought by an old waiter, she launched into the history of the Free Colony.

“Our ancestors were members of an English settlement funded by Sir Walter Raleigh in the early days of the colonisation of America, but they ran out of supplies and the natives attacked. They fled for a long time through the wild – always harried by the doggish natives – until they came to a curious, cavernous crack in the Earth. Having nowhere else to go and finding that the sides of the hole were perilous but climbable they descended from the surface and the natives chose not, out of some mythical respect and fear of the place, to follow. They emerged inside the Hollow Earth and found the hospitable landscape that you have discovered. Finding that they were happy here, they created our town and traded with other towns: other groups of people that had fallen through the cracks of the world to relocate underground, for three centuries. This was until the last decade or so when they – and this troubles me to tell it – formed into an alliance against us, calling themselves the Inner Empire and, lustful of the land that we farm, warred against us.”

She continued in this story for a long time and, as she expounded upon the atrocities of the war of Inner Earth, the three Intrepid Explorers for Pay, even the secretive Miss De Trice, found themselves sickened by the plight of Virginia, and all at once leaping up they hurried from the room, a half-formed, hair-brain scheme flickering in their minds. Climbing back into their black flying machine, trailed by a phalanx of puzzled Virginian officers, they took the ship up, up, up until they turned it and flew it away from Virginia and towards the hostile lands of the Inner Empire.

As they approached however, a shot rang out, and a cannon shell hurtled over the open cockpit of the machine. “Quick,” instructed Schmitt, his German accent becoming more pronounced. “Put up the flag De Trice, do not fire, we want to end this strange war.” A white flag slid from the interior of the craft as it settled down upon the ground, swarming as it was with soldiers and ordnance. When they reached it Schmitt and Sir Rexford leapt out, but De Trice remained within and lifted off again, sending the craft to hover ten meters above the ground. Meanwhile, on the earth beneath, the two IEPs found themselves surrounded by more armed soldiers, these with features that seemed even more alien, aiming strange muskets and rifles.

“Put down your guns, what what,” said Sir Rexford, “we’ve only come for peace.”

“And how would you bring us peace?!” said a soldier in green epaulettes, pushing forward so all could see that he was a General. “We outnumber you Outer Earthers, two to a thousand.”

“Three my good fellow,” said Sir Rexford, “three my good man.” And looking up they all saw the black machine above them, flag retracted and weapons extended, hovering like a grotesque bird of prey. There was a long standoff while the three realised that after this they had no idea what to do next and the Inner Empire’s soldiers prepared themselves for the slaughter that was sure to follow. But then Schmitt started up, a new light burning behind his eyes.

“You should have peace because… because above this world – in my world – there is a war, a Great War. Millions are dying but no one will declare for peace, there are machine guns, poisonous gases, barbed wire fences…” And he went on describing the apocalypse occurring above their heads even now. In fact, as Schmitt went on, they all seemed to perceive the tremor from falling shells and the feeling of mud and rats and lice crawling with insidious feet over their skin. In the end, as Schmitt illuminated all human depravity before them, peace seemed the only option and they all knew they had to submit.

Afterwards, as the General commanded his troops to retreat and the Virginians dismantled their gun emplacements, the three Intrepid Explorers for Pay flew back to the Free Colony of Virginia and endured the celebratory feasts and long dances held in their honour. All that had gone before seemed to become a dream. Somewhere in the midst of the days that followed Schmitt’s climactic speech, Weapons Officer De Trice deserted them.

“I’m done,” she said. “This was the greatest adventure of my life and I will not end it with us going back to that horrible company and getting our payment. I don’t want a payment! I’m going exploring with some Virginians – there’s another world within this world, what is beyond the Inner Empire? Now that we are not at war I can go and find it out.”

Schmitt nodded; he could only admire her. “You’re the true explorer out of all of us,” he said, but Miss De Trice was gone.

Later First Officer Sir Rexford took the machine and returned to the outside world. “I’m not done, what what, still things to do out there old chap.” Schmitt promoted him to Captain Sir Rexford and let him leave. Schmitt remained.

He walked to the centre of the town after an afternoon of feasting. Laying his head against the trickling coolness of a fountain he stared up at the pirouetting minarets that stretched above him; and he wondered, considering that he was at peace and the war was above not below, was this place Heaven and the upper-world Hell, or was it the other way around?
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