Tech by VICE

The Story Is in the Soil

Pumping the planet for blood—this extraction may be our last.

by Justin Lee
Sep 14 2017, 6:06pm

Jason Arias

The less said about this grimly poignant speculation the better, so suffice to say that matters of mass extraction have never been more urgent than now, in the wake of a hurricane season fueled by climate change and wildfires spread across our increasingly tinderbox'd earth. Before the world changed, we changed it. And not delicately. -the Ed.


It was on a Tuesday that we discovered blood in the earth.

Our miners were down deep—carving the bedrock with their machines, sniffing the air for the tang of copper—when they found the first vein twining through the stone like a calloused worm. They pressed their ungloved hands to the tough fleshy tunica adventitia and felt within it the rhythmic surge of fluid. They were mesmerized in their fear, believing they had uncovered something fell and antediluvian, a blind god in subterrestrial repose. Even so, it was not long before the vein was tested and tapped. Those first men who nearly drowned in the hot blue flow never forgot how it tasted, like a mouthful of dirty pennies.

Further exploration proved the vein to be superficial, an outer groping of a denser, deeper network. As the drilling increased, so did our exploration and understanding of this new ore. The mineral companies hired medical doctors to work alongside their geologists and engineers. A new field, geophlebology, was born. The universities were thrown into confusion and frenzy. The Sciences saw an increase in funding and the Humanities saw the end of "the End of Anthropocentrism," for the blood that coursed through the earth was unquestionably human—type O-negative, universally transfusable.

Geophysiologists and Gaia theorists enjoyed a period of euphoric vindication as they protested the extraction of blood from the earth. There were Senate hearings. Special delegations from interested countries met at the United Nations to discuss the possibility that the earth, or some veined thing in the earth, was sentient. After months of deliberations it was determined that, in the words of one ambassador, "a circulatory system does not a sentient being make." And so the drilling continued. A new industry sprang up from the ground overnight.

Have you ever looked at the sun through a drop of blood? Seen life refracted through life? Imagine a blood well, a tower of woven steel, an endless gout spraying high into the air, the crimson drops turned to sparks by the afternoon sun. Now, imagine the same scene at night, those drops falling on you, black as sin in the mouth of an infant. See them glisten in the moonlight. Feel them cool against your skin.

New technologies were developed and our probes descended farther into the earth. They were soon followed by human explorers, spelunkers who longed for the deep places of the world. The veins and arteries were traced down to the hearts—vast subterranean lakes, throbbing hot in chambers of contracting flesh. Each heart, we discovered, was independent of all the others. In time—as we took this blood and filled the veins of dying children, sated the limbs of car-crash survivors, refilled untold thousands of hemophiliacs, as roses bloomed on our skin and our blood-pressures dropped, as our minds quickened with the rich, pure fuel, as the generations came and went—this ceased to be novel. Another great mystery, like all great mysteries, ceased to inspire awe.

See the small boy in the emergency room, watching the crimson juice feed into his body from a bag labeled Earth Blood. See the tired grandfather slumped in his recliner as the dialysis machine replaces his toxic blood with new, healthy blood; see him grope at the side of the machine and impassively finger the insignia of North American Hemoglobin. See the miners as they leave the darkness of the earth's guts. See their hands, the dirt and limestone grit beneath their fingernails. See the dried blood as they scrub it off their hands and arms, see it foam pink and whirl its way around porcelain sinks, then down, down, down—returning, perhaps, to the dark ground.

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