We found another cavern today, the same as the previous two. It appeared to have been hollowed out by water action, and indeed a small flowing pool appeared at the far end, fed from a spring seeping through the porous limestone from up above. It had been our hope to follow the sound of water back to the surface, but it’s clear that without heavy equipment we can’t make it through.

I’ve taken to calling the three caverns “The Pearls” as they are strung out along a series of linear tunnels. We’ve noticed that the spring water is warm; that and a smell of sulfur occasionally in the air tells me that we’re near some kind of geothermal spring or magma chamber. The danger there is twofold: first that we stumble into a steam geyser or other hazard, and second…

I haven’t mentioned this to any of the group, but the geological survey didn’t indicate any geothermal activity in the area. Surely they all read the report as thoroughly as I did before the cave-in; surely they are all thinking the same thing that I am.

“The Pearls” shouldn’t exist. No system on earth, and certainly not in the area we surveyed before descending, could carve the natural formations we’ve stumbled upon. With food running low and not sign of daylight for nearly a week…I can only hope that someone finds my scribblings here useful in determining the what, and the where, and the why.

For I simply cannot.

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“Well, I’ll tell you,” the katydid whispered. “But you’re not going to like it. Promise you won’t squish me if you don’t like it.”

Emilee rubbed her ear near where the insect was perched. “I never squash anything that talks. That’s my policy and it’s served me well.”

“Very well. I’ve never left this cavern, you see, but I hear a lot of things from the others in the common patois of insects and other arthropods,” the katydid said. “You’re in the thermal caverns of Bakutis, deep below Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica, many unfathomable leagues from the nearest settlement of your kind.”

Emilee’s hand dropped. “What?”

“Yes, I realize those are the human names for these features,” the katydid continued, “but you must understand that we small ones have little use for names and are happy to use human ones when the need arises. Why, some of the humans who have visited us in the past have even named parts of the caves. I can show you to their dessicated remains if you’d like.”

Overcome with revulsion, Emilee flicked the katydid off her ear.

“You promised!” it cried.

“I never said anything about flicking!” Emilee cried apologetically. “Sorry!”