On Action Squad's third trip into the Labyrinth, we had a 9 person crew, as we were bringing a group of people with as a part of Mouser Week 3 (a semi-annual gathering of local explorers). Prior to that evening, we had not yet discovered the NSP and Gas tunnels ... so when we did, we of course spent most of the long night exploring them. Several hours of exploration had left Ben Bear extremely thirsty and irritable, and it seemed that if we did not get him to the surface quickly, he might snap and start killing people.

Problem was, the only safe exit we had at that point was our entrance, hours of underground walking away (we did not have a map of any kind yet, so we would have had to simply double back in order to not risk getting lost). Ben insisted that he was going to exit the first place we found; this happened to be a manhole cover up a long shaft, using a ladder so rusty and corroded that it seemed accidental that it looked a bit ladder-like.

Somehow Brian Insane volunteered or was elected to be the manhole-mover. Prior to trying to open it, he spent a few minutes listening for traffic. I seem to recall wanting to wait and listen longer and Ben wanting him to hurry up, but I might be making that up. Now, I'm turning the reins over to Brian, who wrote the following account of what happened next ...


In the middle of a downtown intersection, Brian Insane pokes his head out of the second manhole. If he had seen his shadow, we would have had two more weeks of winter.

Brian Insane (aka Molehunter) writes:

Heavy. It was heavy. That was the first thing I could think of. "This is fucking iron, and it's fucking heavy." Manhole cover. I thought of the sound of cars, sure. Of course I did. I had visions of one coming over head, like in a movie, I'd duck out of the way, watch it go over me, FX shot of the undercarriage. It would be great. I always think I'm living a movie. Max's movie was "Goonies." Mine, was undefined. My movie was a song. A Harvey Danger song:

"Paranoia, paranoia, evrybody's coming to get me, just say you never met
me. I'm runnin underground with the moles, diggin holes."

Of course I am. I'm the Molehunter, after all. Funny enough, to start with it had nothing to do with going underground. Back in another lifetime when I was bored and more bored I'd helped track down a porno perv old man at the local University called the Moleman because of his huge cheek moles. So I was the Molehunter. Entirely new connotation now, hanging 80 feet up in a smooth wet concrete shaft.

We're 100 years past Freud. Does anyone really need to state the obvious? No? Didn't think so.

Why was my movie a song? Well, I like songs better than movies. How's that for a starter. I like the visuals of a good flick. I love the story. I love the entire thing. But when it comes right down to it, it better be one fuck of a story for me to sit there for two hours or more. With a great song, in four minutes I can get the best stories ever told, *and* I can fucking dance. So how's that for reasons.

I walk around thinking that I'm in a movie though. I'll be on the street with the sun shining over me, I've just left some girl behind, or she's left me behind. Sometimes I'm happy about it, and I was just waiting for her to get it over with so I wouldn't have to; other times, yeah. But there it is. You're leaving, you're being left, you're living.

Right now, what I'd left was safe solid earth. Again: it was heavy.

I gave the good heave-ho with my back. The iron was ripping into my shirt.Better than my skin. I'd have to throw the shirt out later that night. It was torn to no use. Grit was sifting down on my head as I shifted the thing, dirt pounded into the cracked ring by who knows how many feet (not tires, I hoped) for decades.




cars, all to my left. What direction was what? No idea. Didn't matter. Street must be over there. I must be under sidewalk.

This one is louder.

Louser. This shouldn't be louder. They should be the same. Bad muffler? Rice burner? What's happening here? Coming closer faster.

Streetlight! I've got streetlight! Amber streetlight. Success. We're out. It's been how fucking long, I could burrow down there forever but eventually it's time to come back to the world. Success. Exit.


I drop the lid and tuck my head down in pure instinct. I'm like an animal, motherfucker, pure animal, I've never been less human since I developed opposable thumbs a few months into gestation. I'm monkey man, you better believe it. Molehunter, bullshit, every hunter becomes the hunted. Man used to believe he wouldn't become the hunted, but you know why he thought that? Because he overestimates himself. He overestimates his perception of the world. Sure, once we have the right tools in hand we're safe from the animals. We're never safe from each other's tools. We're always the hunted. More than any animal on this good green earth we're being hunted day and night, by each other.

This time, the tool is an automobile. My head drops just soon enough to stay attached to my neck. It ouldn't like getting detached from my neck, or losing the crown of its skull or getting dented. My head is sensitive, like me. My head doesn't like losing parts of itself.



Twice, sharp, loud, like nothing I've ever heard before. I've shot off more shotgun rounds than most tinpot soldiers, I survived Motorhead in concert. I've heard loud. This is something else entirely, the sound of 1000 or 1500 or 2000 pounds of steel SLAMMING SLAMMING into an iron plate two inches over your head. What's keeping that fucking thing from falling right in on you? Huh? Not much. A lip of concrete. That's it. I've never heard of a car taking out a manhole cover, punching it through to the underground where it'd fall and fall and spin like a nickel at the bottom.

I've never heard of it, but clinging to wet concrete walls two inches below one, I can't imagine that it won't.

I'm shaking for ten, twenty, minutes. I can't stop shaking. It's like a crash after a speed binge, I know everything's fine, I know it's all over.

My rebellious body doesn't give a fuck what I know. It's in an uneasy partnership with my brain in the best of times, and usually, it just fucking checks out. Boom. Leave a tip for housekeeping, you cheap sumbitch.


We wound up leaving from a manhole a little ways away, after necessarily spending a perhaps excessively long time listening to make sure cars were not coming near the thing. This time, someone else went first.

Ben got something to drink, and Molehunter eventually stopped shaking, as we walked all the way across town back to the car, through the dead streets of nighttime Saint Paul.