by Elliott Vincent Flood
Roughly fifty miles east of Denver lies the small highway community of Deer Trail, Colorado. It is the kind of town that you would hardly notice passing through. A few gas stations and a small neighborhood comprise the majority of the town. We turned on to a small dirt road just north of the town. The deep blue sky was pock marked with countless clouds and a stiff wind was blowing. We rumbled down a dusty road, cutting through the vast, golden farmland and as we crested a small hill, our destination came into view. Looking through binoculars, I saw a double wide trailer, several broken down cars, and a small metal shed. As I panned the landscaped, strange concrete structures came into view. Large disc like shapes dotted the farmland randomly. I place the binoculars into my satchel and the three of us began to make our way towards the farm.
The Titan Missile Program was developed by the federal government in the late fifties. It was a series of nuclear warhead launch site scattered around the country, just in case the United States had to attack Russia. The remnants of one of these monstrous underground facilities still exists just outside of Deer Trail. We stealthily approach a small cluster of hills, being cautious to not alert the landowner. Stories of people being shot with rock salt loaded into shotgun shells were fresh in our minds. We top the small hill and begin to walk down into a depression in the earth.
The first thing I notice is the trash. Starting about halfway down the hill a trail of dust masks, beer bottles, and spent spray paint cans become apparent. We follow the refuse down and discover a large, cave-like concrete opening in the side of the hill. Double checking our flashlights and putting on our dust masks, we approach the yawning portal. We step into an immediately cool and dark world, one inhabited by juvenile graffiti and half burned mattresses. A long corridor extends in front of us, ever darkening. We exchange glances and begin to make our way down the gullet of the structure.
As we make our way down the musty path, the light from the outside world begins to fade rapidly. We switch on our flashlights, relegating our vision to what the small circles of light can illuminate. The sounds of dripping water echo through the hallway, their source undeterminable. We slowly continue and another large opening begins to materialize out of the blackness. Through the opening we step into a gargantuan room. It expands roughly two hundred yards out in front of us, like a soundstage from a cheap science fiction film, with ceilings reaching a few hundred feet above. We realize that we are standing on a large metal platform that circles the room about twenty feet above the ground. We shine our lights across the room, but the beams dissipate, not strong enough to reach the other side. We are in awe of the sheer size of the space. We whistle and clap, listening to the echoes. The air is still cool and musty, but now a certain dampness is more noticeable and I get the sensation that we are in the chest cavity of some great biblical whale. We clamber slowly across the rusted metal platform, taking care not cut our selves or to stand on a weak spot and fall through. As we follow the circular path, we come to a dilapidated staircase that winds down into the endless dark.
Much like the surrounding metal structures, the staircase sags with neglect. What was once sturdy metal has given way to the ever-encroaching presence of that flaky brown scarring that indicates the earth has come to reclaim its territory. With a gloved hand, I brush the railing of the stairs and watch the metal flakes flutter down into a yellowish pool. The inevitability of rust. We find the bottom of the massive room and walk out into the center of the floor. It is a twisting field of labyrinthian pipes and grates. I can now make out multiple large tunnel openings that dot the surrounding wall. Gateways to untold depths in the earth, barely visible.
We discuss our options and elect to venture down one of the tunnels. The interior of the giant tube is much like the hulking room we left, save for the damp earth in place of an iron floor. The rust has found its way here as well; the oxygen and moisture working in unison to slowly unravel the fabric of the complex underground structure. As we advance down the tunnel, not knowing what we will uncover, I consider that this facility was once the pinnacle of human technological development, one large enclosed system, humming with synchronicity. Early computers, closely monitored by mathematicians, working seamlessly with physicists and chemists to ensure that the liquid fueled rockets were primed in case of a required launch. All being overseen by military engineers and higher officials. All in the name of potential war paranoia. Now, as we approach the end of the dank tunnel, all that means nothing. This missile silo is now rotting back into the core of the earth, forgotten like some high school science project relegated to the attic as a keepsake.
The tunnel dead ends into a looming vertical shaft that has a small seam of light emanating from the top, barely visible. Another crumbling staircase sits on the opposing wall, beckoning us to use it, like an old man who wants to prove he is still capable of doing his job. We take the staircase’s invitation and slowly clang up each step. The presence of moisture has subsided the rust has seemingly been held at bay, temporarily at best. With every step upward, we notice the temperature increasing and the seam of light has now become quite visible. It outlines a small concrete hatch with a solid metal hinge and a large handle. We reach the top of the staircase and must decide to go back or attempt the hatch. I pull the handle of the hatch and with some persistence and struggle, it creakingly turns. A sudden wave of heat hits us as our eyes slowly adjust to the punishing bright and the distinct smell of fresh air fills our nostrils.
We emerge to find ourselves in the middle of an enormous brown grass field. On the surface, we are back in the present. The colossal relic of man’s lust for destruction lies below us, being slowly destroyed by the churning earth and the passing time. In the distance we can see the outline of the farm where we began our journey. Basking in the sunlight and must-free air, we remove our masks and share a bottle of cool water. On the surface, the subterranean leviathan is completely unnoticeable, save the outline of the concrete hatch. A secret world lying beneath the roots of rolling farmland, where rust thrives and decay is rampant. Standing in the field, I get the feeling that human advances are so interim, so minor in the face of nature. We gather our few things and begin to walk back toward the car, well out of sight of the landowners. I wonder what the depths of the missile silo will look like in one hundred years, a century of oxygen and moisture. I picture the earth slowly digesting, eventually leaving no trace. As we load the car and begin down the dirt road towards Deer Trail, I marvel at how all the advancements of humankind eventually fall victim to the maw of time. About the Author:Elliott Vincent Flood graduated from the MSU Denver Writing Program. He grew up in Austin, TX and spends much of his time attempting to explore the less traveled parts of the world and put it down on paper. He is perpetually at work on various writing projects and this is his first published story.