In the little village of Aniche situated 8 kilometers east of Pranil, Uduma Oko, a peasant farmer was digging a well behind his newly completed house. Several inhabitants of Aniche drank from such wells which were usually very deep, as the nearest stream was over 26 kilometers away. Uduma had been digging for three days and had gone quite deep when suddenly the ground under his feet gave way. He fell through space and landed on firm ground again, some 4 meters below the point he had dug up to. Panting with fear, he started shouting at the top of his voice for help. It was completely dark in there and he could not see much. He shouted and called, and no help came. An idea quickly occurred to him.
“I must make some attempt at coming out; he mused.” The rope which he had thrown into the hole he was digging, and by means of which he climbed in and out was about 1.5 meters above him. Its other end had been firmly tied to the trunk of a nearby tree above. He jumped as high as he could, but he could only get as close as about half a meter from the tip of the rope.
Now, he conceived a beautiful idea. “By spreading both legs across the diameter of the hole and pressing on the upper part with both palms similarly spread out, I can get to this rope end; he assured himself. And he began.
He threw out one leg into the dark surrounding, for a feel of the wall and there was no wall nearby. He nervously threw out both hands wide apart to feel the walls and the hands merely swept through hot air. A much greater fear gripped him. He began to shiver. He shouted and shouted, and soon realized that there was some echoing sound between the spells of shouting.
Uduma’s voice soon brought to the scene, a little boy who was playing nearby. As soon as he saw the boy’s face as he tried to peep down into the hole, Uduma pleaded with him to run and call everybody.
The little boy ran out and delivered the message. Soon people started running to the scene.
As they arrived, Uduma;s elder brother who was among them called out.
“Uduma! what is wrong? Ah! you have already gone so deep in such a short time. “Please go to that tree and loosen that rope and throw more length of the rope so that I can come out. Please hurry I am in danger.” pleaded Uduma. Off he ran, accompanied by two other men, They did as was requested. The rope came down near enough for Uduma’s grip. He gripped it firmly, and started climbing out as all the men pulled on the rope to facilitate his deliverance.
Puffing out air from his lungs like a blacksmith’s bellows, Uduma, with face scowled with fright and wonder began the story of his experience in the under-world.
“My people;” he continued, “I am of the opinion that that mighty hole must be harbouring some big dangerous animal. It could be some mighty snake, and I am afraid it could come out from the hole I have dug for the well, and devour us.”
“How big is the hole?” asked Peter who was also contemplating on digging a well for his own family.
“I am telling you that the hole is big enough to hold an animal as big as ten elephants. I spread out my hands in that darkness, but could not feel the boundary. It is a very mighty space”.
“It may be a cave used by the old-age people thousands of years back,” reasoned another. “And very often, these caves are inhabited by big snakes, came another.” “We are no longer safe here, you know” warned Uduma.
At this everyone was gripped with fear, and they resolved to alert the whole village about it.
The story soon spread like wild fire. Soon, varying versions of the same story were heard in. various quarters. In some areas, it was held that someone was digging a well, and suddenly sank into another world under-ground, and it was said that the temperature was too hot in this under-world. Some believed that the fellow was at the out-skirts of Hell which was believed to be under the earth.
Some interpreted what Uduma described as echoing of his voice, to be voices of spirits of the under-world mimicking Uduma’s shouts for help.
As the villagers could no longer bear the horrifying stories being told in various quarters about the hole, they soon started packing, until the entire Aniche became a ghost village.
The exodus of the villagers gave greater publicity to the story, and soon other neighboring villages started panicking. Many feared that since the villagers of Aniche had all moved, whatever was living in that hole, if it meant any havoc would continue advancing until it got to the other neighboring villages. This instilled an irrepressible fear in every one and soon the exodus became so wide-spread that the central govemment was faced with an unprecedented refugee problem. Government appeals on the villagers to return to their various villages fell on deaf ears.
ENTER THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS
The central government had not treated with any degree of seriousness the story emanating from Aniche village about a strange underground hole, until it created an enormous refugee problem. Several children, as well as the aged began to die from hunger and disease in several refugee camps.
Uduma, the well digger, was invited for questioning at the Archaeological Survey Office. Following his explanations, it was then decided that a team of archaeologists be sent to the area to study the nature of the underground hole.
Every move being contemplated on was widely publicized in the news media with the aim of defusing the fear generated in the minds of the people.
As a first step, a temporary house was to be constructed in the village of Aniche, near to where the hole existed. The archaeologists were expected to live in this house for the period of time they were to carry out detailed studies and exploration of the hole. This move was widely publicized by the government. The villagers of Aniche who were still staying in several refugee camps were called upon to seize the advantage of having to reside with the Archaeologists, to return to their homes. While the construction of the house to accommodate the Archaeologists was going on in Aniche, the Archaeological Survey Office had become a busy office, as several people began to visit them to ask questions about the mysterious hole. Several persons, who came there, came with a view to finding out how safe they were in their various homes vis-a-vis the distance between Aniche and their various homes. Many came with the hope that the Archaeologists would be able to make some useful postulations based on their previous experiences or wealth of knowledge. There were others who thought that the archaeologists had gone to the hole, and they had come to find out the result. Consequently, some of these people had developed some familiarity and even intimate friendship with some of the officials of the Archaeological Survey Office.
Work was now completed at the site where a temporary building was going up for the archaeologists. It was now time for the exploration to start.
Two archaeologists were dispatched into the tunnel. They carried a small box containing some working tools. They also had very powerful search-lights for clear visibility. By means of a pulley-operated belt, the two explorers were lowered into the hole.
As soon as the two Archaeologists landed at the
bottom of the pit, they flashed the powerful light they were carrying. “Gush! Exclaimed Philip who was carrying the light” “What a mighty tunnel!”
“And people have been talking of a big hole all along!” gasped his partner who was beginning to shiver with fear.
“I think we better go back to report this, may be we shall need to carry in more equipment.” he suggested.
“I suppose you are right, Philip. I have never seen or heard of an underground tunnel as big as this.” wondered Peter who had switched on the search-light to the maximum illumination to see the limit of the tunnel. The powerful light faded into a dark area beyond, giving an impression that the tunnel was longer than the length the light could go. They went back to the belt and pulled the alarm rope. The pulley began to revolve, and they were pulled up.
On arriving at the survey office, they reported what they saw. Everyone was startled at the news that the underground hole was a mighty tunnel. They gave the estimate of its size to be 17 meters deep, 9 meters wide, and as long a anybody can guess.
The first report that left the Archaeological survey office (ASO) was that the well-digger’s hole opened into a section of a very long tunnel, and that the ASO officials were now embarking on a complete exploration of this tunnel.
The news that the big underground hole was after all a tunnel without end sent fear into everyone. There were some who speculated that the tunnel may be an old valley covered up after a volcanic eruption some thousands of years ago. Some others believed that the tunnel must have something to do with the habitat of some ancient large animal that lived under the soil.
Because of the fear which had been generated in the minds of all, including the Archaeologists, it was decided to send two armed policemen to go along with the Archaeologists, Four days later, the exploration resumed. The four men were lowered into the tunnel. On their arrival, each of the two archaeologists paired up with each policeman. They then decided to go in one direction first with an aim of first determining how long the tunnel was on that side.
They moved with heavy steps as children learning to walk. As they took each step, they stopped, surveyed the top, the sides, and bottom of where they were. The powerful search light they were holding gave them very clear visibility. Holding their rifles in readiness for shooting, the two policemen who were no less frightened in this strange world now led the way as they advanced.
With steps heavy with fear, sandwiched between curiosity and determination the four men gum-shoed on.
The sun was going down, and the ASO was getting worried about the length of time the men were staying in the tunnel.
“I cannot understand why they should decide to keep us in such suspense,” howled Dr. Finn, the head of ASO. “If they discover that the tunnel was getting too long, seeing that it was getting dark, they should have come out to report the extent they had discovered,” he continued. Banging his right fist on the table in anger, Dr. Finn continued in a much louder voice. “And I specifically instructed them not to bother about taking any samples yet, but to determine how long the tunnel is and report back to me”.
“Doctor, I am even worried about their lives,” complained Miss Pugh, Dr. Finn’s Secretary
“What beast will overpower four men at a time; armed with rifles?” queried Dr. Finn. “Take that completely out of your mind. If they met any danger, at; least one of them would be able to escape to report such to us” he reassured. .
It was now 10.pm. It became certain that the men would not be expected to return that night. The office was then shut for the day.