I know some of you think that Inga rarely leaves the house, but believe it or not, there was a time when Inga embarked on grand adventures to far away places. Fifteen years ago, Inga and I belonged to the University of Washington Spelunking Club and we went on week long caving expeditions in Montana and Washington. We’d put on helmets with headlamps, knee and elbow pads, and gloves and off we’d go underground. The club had three principal rules to abide by:
- Do no harm to these highly sensitive ecosystems.
- Tell no non-caver the location of these caves.
- While on expedition, no real news sources may be consulted: no radio, no magazines, no newspapers. Only supermarket tabloids may be read in camp.
Whoever did the every other day food and ice run into the nearest town 30 or 40 miles away would bring back copies of all the latest tabloids. We’d excitedly sit around the picnic table while eating breakfast or dinner and read amazing tales out loud to the group. On one such trip, we explored the lava caves south of Mt. Adams. One of these caves was like walking through an abandoned subway tunnel. We walked over half a mile underground, stopped for a picnic lunch, and then headed back out. The walls were covered with pockets of slime mold and previous, less respectful visitors had inscribed their names in it. As a result of visiting that cave, I penned the following article for the “Cascade Caver, Newsletter of the Cascade Grotto of the National Speleological Society”. It was printed in the June-July 1991 issue.
The Truth About Cave Slime Mold
Reprinted from The National Tattler, May 1991
They were brought here in faster-than-light space craft from a far away planet. The slime mold species had flourished there for eons and had become sentient over time, much to the delight of the planet’s community of species. But the planet’s rapidly changing environment caused by a dwindling sun threatened the slime molds’ very existence thus prompting the unheard of mass relocation of the slime mold to a conducive planetary environment in order to ensure their survival as an evolving species.
When the ships arrived here, they found a world in balance. (Man was still living in trees and eating bananas.) After exhaustive analysis of Earth’s ecosystems, a particular geological formation, known to modern man as the lava tube, was chosen as the new home of the slime mold. Their friends bid them good luck and farewell and returned home.
The slime mold inhabitants of a particular lava tube, that will come to be known someday as “New Cave” in Washington State, immediately recognize the creature that has entered their dark home as a new and important species. It is primitive man! By this point, the slime mold has evolved into a telepathic species and they attempt to communicate but the ape-man before them is too preoccupied trying to get some revolting slime off its hand. The brute gives the slime covered ceiling a disgusted look and stomps back out into daylight oblivious to the arrow he’s dropped and the attempt to communicate.
Their approach to the cave entrance is heralded by a strange sound, one never heard before by the cave’s inhabitants. Laughter! The collective slime mold memory is consulted and they recognize these visitors as the same species that visited their ancestors many years ago, but much younger. Telepathically, they reach out to these young minds and are met with chaos. The undisciplined thought patterns are noise to these advanced minds. There seems to be no communicating with these visitors until one of them extends a finger into the slime and begins to inscribe a pattern. Soon the other visitors join in and for hours they cover the walls with cryptic messages. Billions of slime mold cells perish but their death is not a loss if it means establishing a link with these creatures.
The cave is quiet once again except for the sound of dripping water. The tasks of analyzing the messages and reproducing lost slime mold cells have begun. After time, a consensus is reached, a decision is made and preparation for the next encounter begins.
A New Race
Two things are immediately apparent about the new visitors that have just entered the cave. Every one of them has one or more light generating organs protruding from a hard, hairless head and their thought patterns are of a much higher quality; purposeful, quiet and intent. These humans are united by a sense of wonder and reverence as they proceed deeper into the lava tube. “At last!”, the slime mold exclaims mentally, “Someone we can communicate with!” The order is given and millions of slime mold cells move according to the prearranged plan thus creating a message in the slime directly above the head of a nearby caver. It consists of patterns based upon those made by the previous cave visitors. The caver does not observe the message at first so the slime mold reaches out telepathically and after a mighty effort, they compel this human to look up. Disappointment dawns on the slime molds’ collective consciousness as the caver reads the newly formed message of “Bobby loves Alice!” and mutters to himself. “Damn kids!” */:-)