The fire had now burnt out but it’s glowing embers still remained. I could hear the distant rumbling of my fellow soldiers snoring. The moon shone down into the farmer’s field that we, the king’s men, now inhabited. My palms were sweaty and my stomach clenched into a crampy knot as I tried to picture what I would be facing tomorrow. You see I was one of the new soldiers to the force. The sergeant had chosen me to lead the party into the cliff-top cave. He had thought that this would be a routine check, but something, just something was telling otherwise.
I didn’t trust that cave one bit. As I closed my eyes, I was aware of a small voice in the back of my mind warning me of the impending doom. My sleep was restless that night and I awoke at first light my hands bathed in cold, clammy sweat. We trudged up the rocky-cliff, one-by-one. Each man would take his turn to perch on each precariously perched rock, waiting for it to fall and drag the soldier down with it, down, down into oblivion. Eventually we reached the cave mouth and peered inside. The smell of blood filled our nostrils. We lit our torches and moved cautiously inside.
Further and further we walked, our footsteps echoing in the darkened tunnels. The bright flames of our torches cast ghoulish shadows onto the walls of the cave. We could hear the drip, dripping of water coming down from the roof. I don’t know if it was my own fear or not but I began to doubt myself. What was I doing here? I was barely a private and I was leading men of much higher ranks into a cave I had never been to before. I couldn’t laugh in the face of danger like the brave men behind me and I was, but being as I am my pride got the better of me and I was determined not to show my fear the others so I continued on.
Turning the corner I saw shapes hanging over head in the harsh light of our torches. The shapes were not unlike teeth and I imagined being a creature lurking in the shadows, waiting to lurch at my next victim. Another soldiers words yanked me back to reality, “Miss, miss! Are ye alright miss? ” I replied, “Yes I’m fine. Let’s go on. ” And so we left the strange shapes and my strange thoughts behind. As we progressed through the narrow tunnel squeezing, pulling and pushing, I caught a glimpse of light. The end of the tunnel? I believed so!
I called out to my men and felt a sudden surge of strength in myself. Out! We were finally getting out! Aah… to feel the wind on my face again, the sweet chirping of birds and the smell of newly cut grass. I broke into a sprint running faster and faster. Then the earth seemed to jolt, the floor tilting away from me. I fell crash upon the floor. Rocks and boulders were falling everywhere! In desperation I started to search for a way out. “I must get to the end” I though. “I must! ” I could hear shouting and screaming or so I thought.
All the sounds seemed to jumble together making me feel giddy. I fell down again, this time due to a boulder. The shaking stopped and I stood dizzy and disorientated peering through the dust as it settled. Immediately I looked for my fellow soldiers. A huge wall of rocks blocked the passage that we had come from and had forced the rest of the group behind it. It was just me all alone by myself in this huge empty space. I walked over to another smaller, weaker looking wall. I took it down with one fluent movement of my leg. My eyes hungrily took in what lay beyond.
A great deep cavern with almost pure white, angelic shafts of light showed the only way forward. I walked into it, cautiously placing one foot in front of the other, afraid that the cave would start shaking again. I could see plants, greyish brown in colour straining, trying to reach out towards the lights. Like hands they were grasping and scraping at what little life the lights provided, if any. I could hear seagulls calling out to each other above. I began to feel isolated and panicky, cut off from the rest of the outside world as though this cavern had now become my domain.
The place where I would eat and sleep for the rest of my life. No! I would get out. I’d see to that. I continued on. Suddenly I felt breathing, slow and steady against my neck. I turned to see a monstrous figure standing before me. Still with slow, steady breathing he (for I assume that this person was male) bent forward and whispered something in my ear. A language I didn’t understand, complete gibberish. I jumped back at the sound of his voice dropping my torch in the process. I felt for it on the ground and picked it up.
The figure was now gone as if he had disappeared in a puff of smoke. A deep feeling of unease settled over me as I walked through the cavern towards the tunnel at the end, my heart beating not only in exhaustion but fear. The silence was so thick you could have cut it with the blunt edge of a ruler. As I reached the end of the tunnel I heard voices, mostly male I suspected. I tiptoed forward to see who the voices were coming from. Something shifted behind me and as I looked back something sharp and heavy found it’s target.
My left temple took a crushing blow and I sunk slowly to the floor and blacked out. I awoke to the smell of acidic medicines and something else not unlike vomit. I turned my head and a searing pain invaded my left temple, the place where I had been hit. At once out of natural instinct, my hand shot up towards my head and I felt a bandage covering the top of my head just above my eyes. The nurse who I assumed has been supervising me let out a small shriek and made a hasty exit. I lay awake for a long while contemplating what happened in the cave. I would remember this for years to come.