I had been struggling to make ends meet for a while after college. At 26, I was working three part-time jobs to afford my meager apartment, keep gas in the car, and get some food in my belly each night. Add having to dodge an array of calls from debtors almost hourly, I felt isolated and became convinced I was drowning, that I would never find stability or happiness again.
Then, I began to dig myself deeper – literally – and found all of the emotional and financial support I needed.
With no end to my financial ruin in sight, I began to dig a deep, large hole in the backyard of my parents’ house in New Jersey. I found this to be a calming task as a child and even now as an adult, I felt soothed by the repetitive motion, the feeling of cool earth, and the ever-present scraping sound of shovel against dirt. I dug on and off for about five days, until I came upon a vast system of tunnels. Curious and convinced I had already lost all of my jobs since I had spent five days digging a hole, I decided I had nothing to lose and traveled deeper under ground than I had originally thought possible.
The tunnel was sleek, made of a stainless steel that was clean and cool. After a few minutes, I found a tidy reception area staffed with what I came to know as a Mole person – more specifically, Kandra the mole person. She was tall with an athletic frame, incredibly pink and translucent in some areas, with perfectly manicured claws, and of course, naked. Without any body hair, it was difficult to make out the subtle facial expressions that we humans sometimes use to communicate, but Kandra made everyone feel welcome. She was kind, offering me help and explaining what I had stumbled upon.
“We get humans down here every couple of years” she said. “Decades ago, our founders installed the tunnel system so we could get from Mole Town to mole town efficiently, and back then humans didn’t bother much with the ground. But now it’s become more difficult. There’s the greedy contractor who preys upon the anxiety of his clients and digs deep to build an apocalypse shelter, the weekend warrior who thinks she can install her own irrigation system, but doesn’t know when is far enough down when burying the pipes, and the prisoner, who thinks his only way out is down.”
“Typically I’m met with a terrified, guttural scream and the human takes off running back to the surface. But you, you’re different. You’re young, with a gentle look, and seem to have a broken spirit, making it easy for you to find commonality with people in a situation you could never begin to understand.”
Kandra was right – I felt so at home!
We began our tour, leaving the main office and walking through town, meeting all of my soon-to-be-neighbors and learning about the local customs, which focused heavily on hissing. Within a few days, I had settled in. I didn’t have student loans or a phone bill down below, but had a community full of people I could trade things with for different goods and services! I felt free and happy knowing that I finally had a fresh start.
Things went well for the first few weeks – with no phone for collection agencies to call, I was able to sleep soundly, making it possible for me to sleep through the night and most of the day. The mole people were friendly and wanted to make sure I was comfortable, as they said it is customary for them to welcome all who enter their town. They carefully explained their lifestyle to me, making sure they repeated things several times because they “thought I wasn’t paying much attention” or something. There was so much to see and do!
If I was bored, I’d walk down to my neighbor’s apartment for a chat. When I grew hungry, I’d just stroll on down to the co-op to pick up some fresh produce and I have to tell ya, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that well! The food was so fresh and nutritious! Between my new sleep schedule and hearty diet, I felt like a new person.
It wasn’t long until Kandra delivered some surprising news – I was now in debt with the mole people. It turns out I had never actually traded anything with them, only taken, and now owed them for two months rent, hand-carved wooden furniture, three meals daily since I moved there, and six jars of a blue liquid that tasted like dark chocolate Dove bars. I was devastated. How did the mole people have a better grasp on financial stability than I do? How could I do this again? How could I right this wrong with these incredible people?
I did the only thing I was good at. I tunneled and ran away. I tunneled back up through the mole people’s tunnel right back into mine. Unfortunately, I came to find that my parents had filled in my hole and most of my tunnel, which only delayed my resurfacing by what I assumed to be one day. After reuniting with my parents and recounting my tale, I realized I could no longer run from my problems, and that I actually owed a monthly payment for my bills, not a lump sum, which is what I had originally thought.
As much as I appreciate my own family and how far I’ve come since, I’m so thankful for my time with the mole people. I made connections that I will never forget and learned about how important it is to protect your skin and eyes from the sun when you’ve spent nine weeks underground.
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