Dawn found me throwing dirt, dirt, and more dirt into the bucket, and then climbing out of the bucket and sprinkling it generously around the bramble. Soon enough, the dirt would rise high enough that the brush I had chosen to hide my work could be walked on top of, and I’d have to find a new place to toss my refuse, but I still had a while yet. My hole was a dozen or so feet deep, and I’d started to widen it. So far, the thick nest of roots above my head held the ceiling safely in place despite my concerned attempts to make it do otherwise, so I had no need to put up supports; that would come later.
Happily, I was back to using my large shovel. Though it weighed more than the small one, it was better balanced and lightened the strain on my shoulders. I’d worked out as preparation as much as I’d studied and planning, knowing what I’d pain I’d put myself up for, but nothing except actually doing it shows you all the muscles you’d use and abuse in the work. I paused, my breaks consisting of clambering out with a recently-filled bucket, distributing it, stretching, breathing exercises, and light meditation in the fresh air, before lowering myself down on the rope to continue again.
I ate and drink constantly, small nibbles and sips every few minutes, knowing it was better for more body than to stop for a big meal and then have to wait for it to settle. With the lack of direct light and the depth of my hole, I hung a red LED torch above me, swinging lightly in the breeze created by my own exertions. It was bright enough to let me see my work, low-powered enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about batteries until the end of the two weeks, and red to keep my eyes from dilating when I went out at night. It was no longer safe for me to go out during the day, or even soon after sunrise. All my excursions would be in the early hours of the morning, and few and far between.
I slept when my body grew too tired to work, slipping into an eight-hour schedule—five working, three sleeping—that kept me going around the clock. My base was finished by the third day’s sunset, confirmed by my watch since my body’s internal clock was understandably unreliable. I climbed out of my home, pulled off my dust mask, and plotted the next step.
Three of the trees encircling my hill were large enough for my next need, and I plotted out the distance to them from my base. I lined up their locations underground, and, starting with the one closest to the deer-path that led me here, I started off after breaking out a breathing mask.
Well before I reached the tree I entered the nest of roots, and clipped carefully through them, seeking to keeping their stability and the tree’s health intact as much as possible. When I reached the measured distance, I triple-checked my measurements and then carefully begin to dig upward. The roots grew thicker until I was sawing and trimming more than digging. After two more sleep periods worth of work, I could see the rings of the tree trunk circling above me. I dropped back down and jogged toward the main entrance, measuring the distances. When I climbed out of the hole, I realized I was right where I wanted to be. I brushed the newest layer of dust off my clothes, grabbed a hand-drill out of my black backpack, and went back to work.
I know there are faster and certainly easier ways of hollowing out trees, but this was the only one available to me, as this was one thing I'd been unable to practice beforehand, and last thing I wanted was to burn my way through and have someone spot the smoke. The drill was sharp and I was not unfamiliar with its abilities, and time passed steadily as I slipped into a rhythm. I drilled hand and foot-holds into the sides of the tunnel as I climbed, slowly climbing and bracing myself as I scaled the hollowing trunk.
Suddenly, my drill slipped upward on a stroke, catching at nothing. I lowered myself down once more, figuring the distance I'd come. Twenty feet? That can't be right... I dropped to the bottom of the tunnel and found a large pile of sawdust waiting for me, completely obscuring the route back to my main entrance. I felt for it carefully, and then pulled myself along and finally through the side to the pile into empty tunnel. I climbed up my rope and found sunlight streaming down at me. Sunlight?
Checking my watch, I realized more time had passed than I'd expected, and I'd been up for far longer than my new adjusted sleep-schedule. Day four had started without my noticing, and I felt my exhaustion and tiredness slam into me. I struggled to clear out the saw dust before passing out, and decided not to set an alarm to wake me at nightfall; if I slept late, I surely needed the rest.