The best ride on Earth will take you from the heart of America to the heart of Australia


Part 16 of the 64-part series called "moon photos"

Of course, the quickest way to get anywhere
is a straight line. The only reason no one had tried it before
was the cost, the danger, the molten heat of the living earth
itself. And those were nothing, any more.
Or they were apparently nothing, at least, because
a straight line
was cut
through the bowels of the planet
and connected, umbilically, the two great centers of commerce
called Miami and Perth.
Everyone was pleased. No one was more pleased than the man
who’d built it, Alan Sharp. He’d worked hard his whole life,
believed everything he did was for the betterment of mankind,
thought little of other people, and spelled Progress with a capital.
Of course he had a Bible-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged, where
do you think he got any of his personality?
But we digress: this story isn’t about him.
It’s about the Line.

The biggest secret about the Line
was that it wasn’t straight, not really. Nowhere in the U.S.
could tunnel straight through to Australia,
though Miami got you the closest. About two-thirds of
the way through the earth, the Line dipped
a little, swerved slightly eastward (from
the surface point-of-view; eastward, or for that
matter, northward, southward, or westward
mean little in the middle) to meet up with the surface city
of Perth. But hardly anyone noticed, and anyone that did
was summarily told they were Wrong, and anyone that persisted
was dealt with, equally summarily. The Line was straight,
regardless of Euclidean geometry; the Line was platonic, even.
It was the earth that was wrong.
The second-biggest secret about the Line was
that it didn’t technically exist, at least not in
the way it was advertised. When you bought a ticket on
the Line in Miami, you were packed into a shipping
container, the doors were shut, and you were flown, the long
way, around the world to Perth. And when you
bought a ticket in Perth, the same thing happened but
            (There’s a reason why both Line stations were near
the airport, and it wasn’t what was stated on the brochure:
The Line is conveniently situated near each terminus’s munic-
ipal airport, so that when you disembark you can feel secure
in your correct choice of superior travel method.) The Line
did exist, there was a tunnel through the earth’s core
between Miami and Perth, but it was used mostly for
black-market shipping, telecommunications, storage, and
Doomsday preparation.
                       (The great irony of this last purpose
is that Doomsday had already come, unbeknownst to anyone at all,
and so there was nothing more to prepare for.) All
the economic activity that took place on the Line served only
to finance its Great (Capitalized) Lie, which was
(to paraphrase Mr. Sharp) fucking expensive.
The third secret of the Line, which was not really a secret
so much as a lie, was that there were only two secrets
about the Line. The Three Secrets of the Line was a marketing gimmick
thought up by a particularly savvy ad executive in
the early days of the Line’s media presence, and had stuck
for the twin reasons of
                         it drove a massive conspiracy-theoretic network,
                         and it drove roughly 78% of ticket sales. If Mr.
Sharp were honest with himself, he’d think that these gimmicks
with his Line were cheap at best, and reprehensible at worst, and want
to get rid of the whole marketing aparatus, just let the Line speak
(lie) for itself. But Mr. Sharp was never honest with himself.
He knew that a good businessman never is.

As for the Line, it held its opinions to itself.