For Sue Vincent’s microfiction challenge.
The wandering folk found a way in and built a door with stone posts and lintel around the gaping hole. They returned at the summer solstice and the winter solstice to light their fires and watch the sun move across the entrance and strike the sacred place within. But the wandering folk were not to inherit the earth, and one year they did not return. The warlike tribes that settled the area around the great rock had their own customs and their own stories. They ignored the sacred place of the wandering folk and let wild tangles grow over the stone door and hide it from sight. A mountain lion made its lair inside and then another lion. Later, bears and hyenas found its small inner caves warm and inviting.
When the fierce tribes and the waves of war they brought had washed over the great rock countless times, they finally settled and built towns then cities. The great rock was just a rock, unfit for agriculture and used only as a lookout post until even that function became defunct. The wild animals were driven further and further away from human habitation and deserted the caves within the rock. When the tribes turned into consumers and workers, the rock became part of a theme park. Construction workers invaded the silent secret passageways to reconstruct the Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Powerful lights chased away the secret darkness, the din of the excavations destroyed the silence, and mechanical vibrations stirred the soil and the rock. Something awoke.
Deep inside the rock, the sacred place that only the eyes of the first wandering folk had been able to see, began to glow and throb. The ancient passageways and tunnels took their original form of corridors and command rooms and sleeping quarters and missile bays and cargo bays and mess rooms and gyms. The vessel returned to life after a sleep of millions of years. Instruments began to tick slowly, analysing and recording. All the data were processed in the space of a night and androids sent the findings to the mother planet.
In their suspended sleep capsules, the crew did not stir. The androids made the final preparations and the exploratory vessel shut itself down for the last time. They had woken too late. The blue planet had slipped too quickly into irreversible decline. The terrestrial paradise was scarred and poisoned, and when the androids made their calculations, their logic told them there was too little of any worth left.