Monsters and Dust

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Against it all I began to shout, strangled cries, meant to calm the noises, but my voice only came back at me, multiplied from every directions, cries that no longer seemed like my own. The echoes and reverberations gave me quite a fright, and I began to run, driven mad with a sudden desire to see another light, a natural one other than the one in my hand, which was almost gone. I slipped over rocks, and knocked into stalactites, the mad dash of an antelope spooked by its predator.

I found my old tunnel, and hurried through it, wary of falling in the dark. I imagined I felt a breeze but it could have been the cold air against the sweat gathering at the nape of my neck. I did nearly slip and fall into a chasm, and sat down hard, barely catching myself on the rocks, while still holding above me, the dying torch.

This scared into me a sense of calm, and I realized that to hurry too much would be my death. I kicked some small rocks into the chasm, and heard no echo return. I then dislodged a larger boulder with my foot, again down into the black. It was several heartbeats before it struck something, but even afterwards I could hear it rolling down, until the sound faded, and the cave seemed quiet again.

Ever aware of my lamp’s failing light, I snaked my way back, not with out haste, but with a good bit more caution. Not a few times, the leathery sounds of a stray bat put me on course. It is to that and luck that I owe, finally the sight of a spear of sunlight, piercing the roof, heralding a return to the surface.

The boulders were not necessary in the end, and abandoning my torch, I could just reach the end of the rope by jumping. It was not easy and my hands were bloodied, but I finally got hold of it, and pulled myself to the top, warming with relief every length of the way.

Once up top, I lay down on the warm earth, and let the sun set behind me. I felt too overwhelmed to move, and indeed lay there until dusk came on, and the great whorl of bats beat to life, and covered the sky above my eyes like a blanket, now somehow real and comforting.