Johnson wandered aimlessly through the halls, trying to recall just where Professor Peterson’s laboratory was located. He remembered that everyone had that problem when trying to locate him. It proved very convenient when members of the government tried to find him to discuss matters of death and taxes (they were the same thing, according to the professor) and when representatives from the university wanted to visit and see just where their appropriations were going. That was how Johnson had first crossed paths with the Professor nearly two years ago.
The meeting had been brief but very informative. Johnson had searched fruitlessly for half an hour before finding Professor Johnson’s modest laboratory. All he came for was the Professor’s signature on a check from the university. He left with more.
“You’ve spent six-hundred thousand dollars on this?l” cried Johnson after looking over the Professor’s equipment which consisted of two large black boxes, a long rod and a normal color television set.
“Would you mind indulging me and telling me exactly what this setup is supposed to do?” asked Johnson, almost adding “and this had better be good” to the end. The Professor, an elderly man, nodded and first explained the theory behind his ‘wonderful invention’.
It dealt with geology. Up to this point, Mankind had spent billions of dollars and man-hours trying to deduce what lay beneath their feet. Whether trying to build a new skyscraper, trying to find new oil deposits or just pure research determining what the Earth looks like miles down, geophysical surveys were a costly but necessary endeavor and – up to this time – Man had only dug down a few miles. Barely scratching the surface one might say.
The Professor’s invention got rid of the need of that. Through a clever mix of RADAR and computer graphics, it was now possible to view several miles below the surface without digging at all. Just punch in the coordinates and – presto! Instant TV pictures. Johnson sat spellbound watching subways, miners and dim pictures of dinosaur bones on the thirteen inch screen.
“Of course I can only go down twenty miles or so with my present equipment,” the professor had subtly hinted. Johnson nodded his approval and recommended another appropriation from the university for the Professor. In voicing his thanks, the Professor cried out in joy, “Some day, my boy, we’ll be able to see the center of the Earth and you’ll be there to watch it with me.”
Well, it was two years later. Johnson was ready to see the center of the Earth. It only took twenty minutes to find the professor’s lab this time. They shook hands and the Professor hurriedly reviewed various improvements and refinements while eagerly setting the coordinates. Then they both sat down to watch.
“Just think,” said the professor, “we are the first ones to be able to see this far down and we will be the first to see why the Earth gets hotter as you go down farther and what is at the center.” Through the magic of television, they descended. In just seconds, they were twenty miles down. They passed from the crust into the mantle; farther than any man had dug. Soon they passed into the semi-fluid mass of the outer core. The temperature there made Johnson sweat, though the lab was kept at a reasonable 70 degrees. They continued downward. At last they reached the inner core. A mass of iron heated to incredible temperatures and kept under enormous pressure. They probed further in an attempt to find what was at the very center. At last those remote coordinates were reached by the computer and the image on the screen was clear and steady. Too clear and steady to be mistaken for anything else than what it was, unfortunately. Now, even the Professor had begun to sweat.
For there, at the center, was the grinning face of Lucifer inviting them into the realm of Hell.