Captain’s Log, stardate the Ides of March, Year Dot plus [redacted]. Symmes was right after all! John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1779-1829), who posited that there were holes at the poles through which one could gain access to the hollow earth! He was absolutely correct in every particular except one. He had the wrong planet! It is not our gorgeous Earth that is hollow, but Neptune! Less gorgeous, certainly, and much, much colder even than our Arctic and Antarctic regions, and lacking penguins, in fact generally unearthly as planets go. But it has holes at its poles, as we have seen during our sweeping orbit of the planet as part of our latest five-year mission. Tomorrow we shall make an emergency landing close to one of the holes at one of the poles and send a team down on rope ladders.
Captain’s Log, next day. A stupid and maddening argument erupted regarding which of the holes at which of Neptune’s poles the landing party should descend on rope ladders. Mister Poxhaven is terrified of penguins, and argued for the Neptunian North Pole. We simply could not drum into his pointy head that there are no penguins on Neptune, in either the south or north polar regions. He stuffed his ears with space-putty so he could not hear us beseeching him. Second Officer Wilmot made equally vociferous claims for making a descent at the Neptunian South Pole. He is fond of penguins, and thinks there may be a colony living just below the surface, in one of the interior spheres of the Hollow Neptune. I lost my temper with both of them and had them slammed in the brig. I decided to postpone the landing until tomorrow, and sought to keep the rest of the crew occupied with games of ping pong and communal reading of interesting articles from back numbers of the Reader’s Digest.
Captain’s Log, the following day. Fool that I am, I entrusted the key to the brig to Purser Blot, who has mislaid it. Regulations forbid carrying a jemmy aboard the starship, so we cannot force the door. Mister Poxhaven and Second Officer Wilmot are growing increasingly fractious. They rub each other up the wrong way in the best of circumstances, and these are by no means the best of circumstances. We continue to orbit Neptune. Bosun Cugat, the ship’s vampire, has reported some intriguing meteorological and magnetic phenomena. Peas for supper,
Captain’s Log, Ides of March plus three. Mister Poxhaven and Second Officer Wilmot escaped from the brig by means of top secret technology the details of which are redacted. With inhuman patience I repeated, until I was blue in the face, that there is no such creature as a Neptunian penguin. We drew straws to decide whether to descend the hole at the North or the South Pole. I used the last of our drinking straws. As soon as we leave Neptune’s orbit we shall have to locate and dock at a supply planetoid to replenish the drinking straws and several grocery items. I should not have to fret about such matters when there is a hole at a pole to descend on rope ladders.
Captain’s Log, Ides of March again. Mister Poxhaven, Second Officer Wilmot, Doctor Von Straubenzee, and I are on a platform within the interior of the Hollow Neptune. Our first discovery, after we descended on rope ladders, is that there is no such concept as time down here. According to the bizarre scratchings on the wall, it is, always has been, and always will be the Ides of March. There is no sign of any penguins – Mister Poxhaven is relieved, Second Officer Wilmot tearful. Our breathing apparatus is holding up as well as can be expected. Less so our coathangers, which prove wholly useless in the Neptunian interior. I have asked Doctor Von Straubenzee to analyse the problem using his powerful artificial brain.
Captain’s Log, still the Ides of March. We have moved from the platform into a subterranean arena which appears to be some kind of Neptunian warehouse. The scratchings on the wall here are if anything even more bizarre. Second Officer Wilmot claims to have seen several leafcutter ants, more or less the size of earthly leafcutter ants, but none of them were carrying leaves. Or so he says. We suspect he is hallucinating. I have taken the precaution of placing the [redacted] contraption on his head, just to be on the safe side.
Captain’s Log, the Ides of March. Yesterday, whatever that means down here in the Neptunian interior, Mister Poxhaven discovered the nozzles, thousands upon thousands of them. Every so often they spurt forth some kind of nougat with the consistency of jelly. It is pink and white, ish, thus not unlike earthly nougat. Doctor Von Straubenzee volunteered to ingest some. Before any of us could stop him, he punctured his breathing apparatus with the points of a pair of pinking shears and sucked up nougat straight from a nozzle. When he did not immediately keel over and lie splayed on the floor twitching with convulsive fits, Mister Poxhaven and Second Officer Wilmot followed suit. On my next voyage I must recruit less impetuous crew members. Shortly thereafter the three of them keeled over and lay splayed on the floor twitching with convulsive fits. I put two and two together in my pulsating captainy brain and blamed the nougat from the nozzles.
Captain’s Log, the Ides of March. There is no let up in the twitching and convulsive fits. While I wait for my men either to recover or die, I try to concentrate on straightening out at least one of the coathangers, at least for five minutes. Communications with the ship have deteriorated to meaningless static. Out of the corner of my eye, a little while ago, in the shadows, I think I saw a penguin, or a leafcutter ant. How I wish I had thought to bring a back number of the Reader’s Digest with me. For God’s sake look after our people.
Symmes’ tombstone. All rights reserved by rcoss 2001