ED: I recall when I was small, how I spent my days alone

ED: bummmmm bummm bumm

ED: The busy world was not for me

ED: so I went and found my own

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: I would climb the garden wall

ED: with a candle in my ha-aand

ED: I'd hide inside a hall of rock and sand

ED: shit

ED: ah c'mon

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: Before the fall when they wrote it on the wall

ED: When there shit

ED: When there wasn't even any Hollywood

ED: They heard the call and they wrote it on the wall

ED: For you and me

ED: We understoooood

TIM: Hello?

ED: GUH

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Hellooooo?

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Hey, is someone in there?

TIM: I heard you singing! I heard you, you're behind those rocks.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Hey, listen, I'm not here to bother you.

TIM: Are you trapped in there or something?

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: I said, are you trapped in there? Are you okay?

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Okay, well, I'm, um. I'm gonna go get help. Just sit tight, I'll be right back.

ED: .

ED: Wait! Wait.

TIM: Yeah?

ED: Don't tell anyone I'm here. Please don't tell anyone I'm here.

TIM: Why not?

ED: This really isn't any of your business. Just ... I'm not in any trouble. I'm in here because I want to be. Please just move it along, and don't tell anyone you saw me here.

TIM: Well, don't worry about that, because I can't see you. Because you won't come out!

ED: That's the idea.

TIM: Well, listen. I'm, um, part of a project called No Rock Unturned. Do you know what that is?

ED: Um.

TIM: Well! No Rock Unturned is a project made up of people like me who walk all across America and learn about its land and the folks who live in it. Our goal is to eventually count everyone in America as a friend! I was assigned the 38°13'18" line of latitude.

ED: .

TIM: So if you imagine a line that's 100 feet wide and about 2,500 miles long, stretching from coast to coast, you've got the idea. That's my line. I'm hiking all the way through this line, and it's my job to take in all the wonders I see, and try to make friends with everyone I see. And while I'm at it, I

ED: Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've seen y'all go through here. I've seen people walk through these woods here with that same T-shirt on.

TIM: Um, well, you might have it mistaken for someone else. There's only a few hundred of us, so we usually only pass through an area every 800 years or so.

ED: I know that.

TIM: Well, you couldn't have seen

ED: Yes. Yes, I could have. I've been in here for 9,313 years.

TIM: Nine thousand years?

ED: 9,313 years.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

TIM: Oh God in Heaven. You're Eddie Krieger.

TIM: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: You have to promise me you won't tell anyone you saw me. Promise me.

TIM: Well, I mean

ED: If you do, you will be fucking me over more than you can imagine. For whatever that's worth, for the love of God, tell nobody.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Okay.

ED: Not even your people. Not even the, the No Rock, uh

TIM: No Rock Unturned.

ED: Not even them.

TIM: Okay. You know what, I promise. I won't.

TIM: But if I could ask something in return?

ED: What?

TIM: See, what I do is ... in order to get to know people better, I have these questions I ask everyone I meet. It's on this piece of paper here. Could I at least ask you the first ... ten?

ED: What the fuck for?

TIM: It's just that I

TIM: I really care a lot about what I do. It means a lot to me to get to know everyone I come across, if I can. And I'll tell you what, I've been doing this for a really long time, and I have never run into anyone who was sitting in a cave and wouldn't come out. It'd about kill me if I couldn't at least talk to you.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: All right. Fine, all right.

TIM: Thank you so, so much. Okay. Question One is "what's your name?" Eddie ... Krieger. Man, I can't believe it's you. Cannot believe it.

TIM: Already knew that one, so we can skip it ... um,

ED: That counts as one.

TIM: Aw, come on!

ED: No free ones. You have eleven left.

TIM: Jeez, all right. You're the boss. Question Two. "Can you tell me a little bit about where we are?"

ED: Louisville.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Aw, come on.

ED: .

ED: Okay, all right. You're standing next to Beargrass Creek, which

TIM: Oh! Yeah, it seems like an interesting creek.

ED: It's not.

TIM: I was just trying to say something nice.

ED: Did you think you were going to hurt my feelings because you didn't like a nearby creek?

TIM: Sorry.

ED: Sorry for what?

TIM: I don't know. Sorry.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: So you're standing

TIM: Anyway

ED: next to

TIM: Sorry.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: So you're standing next to the south fork of Beargrass Creek, which runs all around Louisville. I'm sitting in what would be called Eleven Jones Cave, if anyone remembered it was here, which nobody does.

TIM: Okay ... I'm gonna go off-script for Question Three. Why is it called Eleven Jones Cave?

ED: I'll answer that, but before I do, there's something we need to do.

ED: Here. Come over here.

TIM closer: .

TIM closer: .

TIM closer: Here?

ED: Closer, closer. Just for a second. Get in the shot.

TIM even closer: Here?

ED: That'll work.

ED: Hello, whoever you are. I'm Eddie, and

ED: What was your name?

TIM even closer: Tim.

ED: And this is Tim. And you, the reader, are reading this on uh,

ED: What's that site with the name that sounds like ESPN? Sports site.

TIM even closer: ESP, uh

TIM even closer: ESPNation? SP Nation?

ED: ESB Nation. And you've been reading in on our little conversation here. It's in somewhat poor taste to address you directly, but some things are more important than the fourth wall. One of those things is your personal safety and well-being.

ED: We're about to talk about Eleven Jones Cave. This is a cave I live in, but I can only do that because I am unkillable. If you're reading this prior to the year 2026, you are extraordinarily killable.

ED: Do not attempt to enter this cave. I say this for two reasons, the first of which is that there is a very real risk of you getting stuck in it. The second, and more important, reason is that this cave harbors extraordinarily high levels of carbon dioxide.

ED:

ED:

ED: I know how people are. Maybe you're telling yourself, "well, I'm special, I won't let myself get poisoned by carbon dioxide." You will, and you'll be remembered as the person who died in some crappy cave because you read it in a story you read online about sentient 178th-century space probes who watch football all day, even though the most handsome character in the story completely interrupted everything to explicitly tell you not to.

TIM closer: Who are you talking to?

ED: Don't worry about it.

TIM: Well, if you won't answer, that doesn't count as one of my questions.

ED: Fair enough.

TIM: You're still on Question Three. Why's it called Eleven Jones Cave?

ED: Nobody really agrees on the story there. The most boring answer is that it was near a couple of properties owned by guys named Leven and Jones, and the name just kind of morphed out of that.

ED: The more fun story is that in the 1800s, there was a gang of bandits known as the Eleven Jones Gang. They lived in the cave and built bedrooms out of its little corridors. They installed an iron gate in here to protect all the stolen treasure they stashed here. If you believe all the stories everyone ever told about this cave, there's tons and tons of treasure back here. There's a Confederate sword from the Civil War. There's a cannon, for some reason.

TIM: Is any of that stuff really in there?

ED: Pass.

TIM: What?

TIM: .

ED: .

ED: Pass. I pass on that question. Ask another.

TIM: What? Why won't you tell me?

ED: I'm gonna go ahead and call that one Question Four. I don't want to tell you because I don't want to deprive you of mystery. Uncertainty is our greatest scarcity. You should be delighted to not know something.

TIM: Well, I don't agree with that! That's why I'm on this hike. To find out as much as I can about the land and the people who live here.

ED: You're an asshole.

TIM: What?

ED: You're an asshole! You have all the time in the world. Infinite time, and just a little bit of mystery. Ration it.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: It's my choice to make. It shouldn't matter to you.

ED: It's going to matter to your future self. What if it's 50,000 years down the road and you're all out of mysteries? Mystery is an exhaustible resource. If you depend on that to make you happy, you better start saving it instead of gorging yourself like a little piglet.

ED: Know where that'll leave you? You'll have nothing left to explore in the world, so you'll look up at the stars, waiting for galaxies to collide. You might see it happen every couple million years. The whole time you're waiting, you'll wish for some old forest to discover, some open house to visit. There won't be any. I bet then you'll remember what I told you.

TIM: Well, what do you do?

ED: That's Question Five. I play the hits. You know what this is?

TIM: A video game, I guess.

ED: It's Double Dribble. One of those old handheld Konami games. The screen is, I mean, you can barely even call it a sceen. It's just a printed picture of a basketball court and a few little LCD illustrations that flip on and off in front of it. Way back when it was made, my grandson showed it to me. I'd never played a video game in my life, I figured I was too old for any of that business. But I played it and played it. You're this little guy, and you have to dribble around the defenders and score. That's the whole game. You get to 99 points, you win.

ED: Takes some time to really get the hang of, but not that much time. Tell you the truth, you play it for a couple weeks and you've got it down, you never miss a shot. So I made up this game where I'd try to beat it as quick as I could, and I'd try to beat my own record. I've got this little timer with me. I'd hit the button with my foot to start it, and as soon as I got to 99, I'd stop it.

ED: And eventually, I realized that it was impossible to beat the game any faster than three minutes, 18 seconds. For about a year, I tried to beat it faster than 3:18 and I just couldn't do it. So I'd see if I could beat it in an exact time. Like exactly five minutes, or exactly 20 minutes and seven seconds. And without a timer, it's kind of hard to

TIM: You played this for a year?

ED: That's Question Six. I've been playing it for 285 years. Usually about eight hours a day, sometimes a lot more.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Ah.

TIM: .

ED: .

ED: I decided I'd play it for a total 300 years, that's it. Any more than that and I may as well just stare at the walls of this cave. I kind of feel that way already some of the time. But I've got to make it last, though. There are other games. There's Shinobi, Jordan vs. Bird, lots of others. There are like ten thousand of them. But suppose I get 300 years of play out of each of them. That's only three million years.

TIM: Well, that's a lot of time.

ED: It's three million divided by infinity. Nothing is anything when you're dividing by infinity.

TIM: Um.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Why are you in there?

ED: Question Seven.

ED: .

TIM:

ED: I'm a safety in a long-distance football game between

TIM: I thought you were a running back.

ED: No. Common misconception. The other team's been trying to tackle me so long, a lot of people forgot what position I played.

ED: Anyway, it's a long-distance game between Louisville and Charlotte. So the field's about 330 miles long. Not as long as some of those other games, but the Appalachians are right around midfield. And it's just a bear goin' up and down those mountains. Charlotte was whippin' our asses, it was 84-14.

ED: Thing about long-distance games, though, is they come with a ton of paperwork. Rules on top of rules on top of rules. A lot of them are just copied and pasted from other games wholesale, who the hell knows what's in 'em? We were around 20 years into this football game before we really went through the rule books and started looking for something we could use.

ED: It's about as big as an encyclopedia set, but me and the rest of the folks on defense spent months going through 'em. Finally we found one. It must have been a leftover from some old game they forgot to take out. It said, basically, if you get possession of the ball and stay in your own end zone for 10,000 years without being tackled, it's an automatic win for you, game over. And of course, our end zone was defined as the city limits of Louisville.

ED: So one of our cornerbacks, she was like, "if there's somewhere you can hide in Louisville, maybe it's worth trying." And I was like, "well, think of how many searchers Charlotte's gonna be able to recruit over the course of 10,000 years. They'll flip this city upside-down, there'll be thousands of them." And but she was like, "well, it's either that or we're losing this game."

ED: A few weeks later, they're just about to score on us again. They've got the ball at Mt. Washington, so you know, they're knocking on the door. They have this quarterback who can just zip it. Good conditions, he can throw it 700 yards. It's one of the most beautiful thrown footballs I've ever seen with my own two eyes. So he just launches it, but the wideout I'm covering falls in a construction site. All of a sudden, I'm all alone. Easy pick for me, but instead of trying to run it back, I retreat to Louisville, right?

TIM: Wow, so ...

ED: Yep, and you can probably fill in the rest. When I was a boy, you know, eight, nine, ten, I used to go back here and play. I was like, "I bet I'm the only person in the world who even remembers that little cave at all." And look at me! I was right.

ED:

TIM:

TIM: You've hid here the entire time.

ED: Yes.

TIM: You know you're famous, right? Like, really really famous? Nobody's just disappeared in the middle of a game and stayed missing for as long as you have. You're like a legend.

ED: A lot of good it does me. I wake up every morning on a rock. It's wet, smells like crap. The nanos clean the carbon dioxide out of the air and bring me food, but the only food they know how to synthesize is granola bars. God bless those little fellas, but they're dumber than hell.

ED: So if this is what fame is, you can have it. By the way, that was Question Eight, and the answer is, no, I didn't know I was famous and I barely care. You have two questions left.

TIM: Okay.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Uhhhhhhhhh.

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Does this game really mean so much to you that you're willing to hide in a cave for 10,000 years?

ED: Well,

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: The game only barely matters to me at this point.

TIM: There seems to be a theme here.

ED: It's enough to keep me going. It's an objective, you know? It's an objective.

ED: You know, I was an old man. I was 87 years old the day we stopped aging. And I was in good health and all that, but I was still waking up every day and telling myself, "Eddie, could be any day now. It could be any day." And I made peace with that. Having an end, knowing one day would be the last day, it felt ... correct. It felt comfortable.

ED: That's been taken from me. The telomeres in my cells stopped shrinking. My wrinkles faded themselves away. I remember on my 128th birthday, I woke up and it was beautiful and I went out for a run. I hadn't gone out for a run my whole life! It was the best time I ever had. Goddamn ... it was the best morning I ever had. I didn't even have good shoes for it, just my old loafers. Got blisters like you wouldn't believe.

ED: Those were the times, but those times gave way to being afraid. Who wants to live forever? What am I gonna do with forever? And so I figured, you know, I need to get good at living life from second to second. Forget all these big conquests. Live second, to second, to second, to second, one at a time.

ED: That's what this cave is for.

TIM: You're kind of like a monk or something then, I guess.

ED: Suppose I kind of am.

ED: But this cave's even more to me than that. You know, there used to be newspaper articles and things about this cave. Every couple decades, someone would rediscover it and write about it. And people would be like, "well, how about it? Eleven Jones Cave! A mystery cave right in the middle of this big city, and we didn't even know it!" And then they'd move on to something else, and then 20 or 30 years later, someone would remember it again.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: And now nobody does. Even my childhood friends, the ones I used to play with when I was a boy, they've forgotten about the cave we discovered in the way back when. Or else they don't care, because I'm sure as hell none of them come to visit.

ED: So this is my cave. And I don't mean it like I own it. I mean it like, this cave is known only to me. It's my duty to know every little crack, every little place the rock juts out. It's my duty to know when the soil gets saturated and the water's about to come wandering through here. It's my duty to look after the little cave beetles. They don't have eyes, you know, they need a little help sometimes.

ED: It's my little speck of the only world I know, and I love it to bits.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: Well, you got one more question, I think, don't you?

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: Yeah. Would you um

TIM: Would you like to know God personally?

ED: .

ED: .

ED: ... ah.

TIM: Because um, see like, the bridge to God is through the cross. I have a diagram, um, it kind of shows how like

TIM: How you cross the bridge of death to find salvation in

TIM: Here, you can have this one.

ED: Ohhhkay. Okay. Just ... here, yes, I'll take it, thank you. Thanks. Great.

ED: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: .

TIM: I'm so bad at this.

TIM: I'm so bad at this ...

ED: .

ED: Oh! Oh hey hey hey, there's no need to ... I'm sorry.

ED: Hey now, I'm sorry.

TIM: I'm just

TIM: I know the Lord's up there. I want to let everyone know He's coming. But I'm just so nervous to tell people. I've been trying all these years and I always feel stupid. So I get real nervous every time.

TIM: And the printer prints it weird, and it's all blocky and fuzzy when you print it out, so it looks stupid.

TIM: .

ED: sigh

ED: Maybe He is up there.

TIM: You don't have to be ... you don't have to.

ED: No, no, no, really. I don't believe so, but I've been wrong before.

ED: .

ED: .

ED: You ever wonder if this is Heaven now? You ever wonder if we're all just there now and we don't know it?

TIM: I've thought about that. All of us have. There's a lot less people who go to church than there used to be, because that's what a lot of people think.

TIM: .

TIM: But I don't think so. But I think about it. And I think, well, I can't be. Because I'm like you, I kinda look at the big long life ahead of me that stretches out forever and disappears. And I get scared. And I think, "this can't be Heaven if I'm getting scared, right?"

TIM: And then I think, "maybe I am in Heaven, and Heaven is scary."

TIM: .

TIM: .

ED: .

ED: .

ED: I know exactly what you mean.

ED: .