Tag Archives: caves

Day 219 – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

Day 219

My iPad is a telescope, turned backwards: the world tiny, but terrifyingly clear. 

It’s a biology experiment, they say. But of course they wouldn’t tell me if it were psychological.

Most websites are blocked except CNN and BBC. Suspicious.

Horror constantly splashes across my screen. The sudden economic collapse and ensuing conflicts. The European epidemic killing millions. Famine, War, Pestilence.

Death.

I can leave this cave anytime. The blinking green button winks at me seductively.

I want to end this madness and go outside and see it was all just a test. But I’m afraid it’s not, so I stay.

 

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Happy Surprises: Gosu Cave

Don’t you love accidental discoveries and happy surprises?

A few weeks ago, I took a trip across Korea by myself. I’m kind of an introvert anyway, but another reason I like traveling alone is the total freedom to do random things when I want. On the first day, I had just gotten off my second intercity bus of the day in the small rural town of Danyang in the deep mountains of central Korea. It was about 4:00pm and when I checked the bus schedule to see what time the bus would be leaving in the morning for the national park I was going to, I noticed the word “cave” in one of the destinations.

I had not known of any caves in the area, but I hadn’t known of anything in the area, and there are few things that get me as excited as caves. I looked it up on my phone and found it was only a kilometer away. So I started walking. And I got there just before it closed.

It was called Gosu Cave and was pretty amazing for something I had never heard of before, after almost nine years in Korea. It was a limestone cave with some stunning features.

20130918_163809Another amazing thing about it was although it was very high, it was also incredibly narrow. This meant that as I walked through it, I was very close to everything. You could even reach out and touch some of the formations, although I felt guilty doing that, after years of warnings never to do that (the oil in your skin can damage the stone and prevent the formations from growing.)

Kosu caveThere was almost no one there since it was almost closing time. Interestingly enough, the two groups that went in at the same time as me were Americans. They were some of the only non-Koreans I saw the entire trip.

Kosu caveThere were two courses, a slightly shorter one that was more for families and a longer one that included everything open to the public. It took about 45 minutes to go through it.

Kosu cave

The longer route featured a formation called Lion Rock, which looked like a lion’s roaring mouth. Unlike some rock formations (like the bear that I could kind of see), it was pretty clear. You can see it here:

Kosu cave lion rockHowever, this cave was not for the claustrophobic. Some places I had to squeeze through, it was so narrow, and even if I didn’t have my big pack on my back, it would have been difficult. In a few places, I had to get down and crawl for a few feet because the ceiling was so low.

Kosu cave

Gosu cave

Gosu cave

 

Gosu cave

I guess it’s true that we don’t necessarily regret missed opportunities all the time, since we don’t know what we missed, but I am glad things worked out to go here. There was another cave up the valley from this one that I tried to go to the next day, but it was a national holiday (Chuseok) so the cave didn’t open until 12:30 and I couldn’t wait that long. I’ll just assume it wasn’t as good as this one.

Just to prove that I didn't get these pictures off the Internet.

Just to prove that I didn’t get these pictures off the Internet.

 


The Universe of Five

This story was inspired by the picture for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I was originally going to use this story idea, but it proved to way too long, so I wrote it up properly here. I feel like I should continue it, but I don’t want to dilute the original story theme. Read it and let me know what you think.

cogs

She counted to five, because there were only five things in the tiny cave that was her whole world.

  1. The Bed, where she slept.
  2. The Hatch, where her food and water appeared while she slept.
  3. The Hole in the floor where the smelly stuff went that came out of her body.
  4. The Wheel. The Wheel was her life. She turned it in long, slow revolutions, around and around and around.
  5. The Light that was built into the ceiling and illuminated her world in a sickly yellow glow. When it came on, she got up and ate and began to turn the Wheel. When it went off, she went to sleep.

It was not a life without thought, but it was a life of small thoughts. She was not sure how she had ever learned how to turn the Wheel, or why she turned it when the Light came on. That was just life. She did not worry about how her food got there; the process was invisible and did not warrant thinking about. All that was real was in her small cave.

She counted obsessively. “1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch, 3: the Hole, 4: the Wheel, 5: the Light. 1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch . . .” She did not count with words—she knew no words—but only saw the images in her mind as she went through the list. She did not count her food. It was there, but then she would eat it and it would disappear and become part of herself and so ceased to be truly real. She did not even count herself. She could see her body, but it disappeared out of sight around her chest and shoulders. Her head was invisible to her and anything that was invisible was not truly real. So she moved like a ghost through her world of five real things.

Time was binary: there was dark and then there was light. The dark was the empty place, when things ceased to be real. Then the light came again and the world was recreated. Every time the Light came on, she would get up, count the world, and then eat. Then she would squat over the hole, and then begin to turn the Wheel. She had no memory of past events, because all events were the same.

universe of 5

Until the dark time when the Light did not come on.

She became aware of lying on the Bed in a world of nothing. This happened sometimes, but then the Light would come on. So she lay there and waited. The next thing she noticed was an uncomfortable feeling in her body. She needed to eat, and to squat.

She wondered if the food was there. That was impossible, since the Light wasn’t on. A thought occurred to her. Was the Hole there? It was a strange thought and at first she dismissed it. The Light wasn’t on, how could it be? But maybe it was like the Bed. The Bed winked out of existence with everything else when the light went out, but it still cradled her formless body as she slept. It had a sort of dark form. Could the Hole have that too?

After a few heartbeats, she crawled forward and felt the floor beyond the Bed. She kept moving and her probing hand felt the floor disappear in a small circle, just like the Hole. By now, the urgency in her body was frantic and despite the absurdity of the situation, she positioned her invisible body over the non-existent Hole and squatted.

When she was finished, she wondered if the Wheel was there. Did everything have a dark form? She moved forward and found the Wheel. She could even turn it. The idea of turning an invisible wheel seemed ludicrous to her and she laughed.

It seemed obvious now, but it had never occurred to her before. Everything must have a dark form. But already her mind came up with an objection. How could the Light have a dark form? It was a contradiction. That, at least, must be impossible.

She made her way to the Hatch and found that it was there, but with no food or water. That made sense, since the food came with the light, but she could not understand why her body wanted it so much. Noises came out of her middle. There was an indentation inside the Hatch where the food always appeared. She felt around with her hands, but nothing was there.

While probing with her hands, she found a small opening further up. She put her arm through it and continued to probe. She felt a dark form she had never known before—smooth and hard with small bumps. There was a bigger bump and when she pushed on it, part of the Hatch fell away and she tumbled forward, through the hatch and out of her known world.

It was still totally dark, which was almost comforting. It meant it was still like a dream. Perhaps it was a dream. She started walking, hands out in front, seemingly floating through an abyss of emptiness. Walls came up against her touch, but she floating around them, letting them effortlessly guide her progress.

She walked in a sort of reverie and it was a shock when she realized there was light up ahead. It was not the Light, but a different light. This was grey and faint, unlike the dull, yellow Light that she knew. It kept getting stronger until she saw that she was in a cave that was very long. All along the sides were things that looked like the Hatch. She could not count them, but there were more than five.

Ahead of her was a kind of floor that went up. It was the shape of the Hole, but much bigger. The light was coming from it, far, far above. The pain in her middle drove her on and she walked, up and up in a circle, going towards the light.

She came to the top, where there was something like a large hatch and something like a very small wheel on it. It turned like the wheel and then the large hatch opened. Light poured in.

It was a cave without walls, huge beyond imagining and filled with light and far, far too many things to count. The size, the colors, the numbers all overwhelmed her. She wanted to run back and hide, but she stood as if frozen, trying to take in this whole new world at once.

*         *         *

Captain Nuris piloted the jump-craft just above the blasted landscape, surveying the site of their victory. Not much was left; the enemy capital had been fire-bombed into oblivion. Smoldering wrecks and piles of rubble showed where the once powerful city had stood.

“No signs of life yet, Captain,” his navigator said. “Wait. There’s someone over there. It’s a woman, I think, but naked and filthy. Just look at that tangle of hair! How do you think she survived?”

Nuris stopped the jump-craft and looked over at the figure, standing frozen in front of a door. Behind her, a massive building lay in shattered ruins. “Must be one of the Cogs that powered the machinery,” he said. “This was a manufacturing plant here, I think.”

“I thought they were supposed to be non-intelligent?”

“Well, this one had enough sense to escape.”

“What should we do: pick her up or leave her?” the navigator asked.

“It’s been three days since the bombing—she’s got to be hungry. If she’ll come with us, we’ll take her.” He turned the jump-craft and started towards her.


The Key of Spreading Branches

Read the previous stories about Klista here.

 

 

Bruce Riansson hung suspended in an abyss of blackness, a slender rope the only thing keeping him alive. He hated the dark and the oppressive, dead silence that he was forbidden to break. As he valued his life, he could not break it.

He was wearing bulky spectacles over his eyes. They were made to see in the dark but they could do nothing in absolute darkness and he was as blind as if he were not even wearing them. The spectacles were magic, of course. At least that’s what Klista said. Ever since he had joined her and she had whisked him away from Indrake and everything he had known, everything seemed to be magic.

Watch out for the moths, she had said, just before he had descended into the pit. They sense sound. Do not make a sound, or I will have to find another man with your abilities to help me. It was not very comforting.

The shaft had narrowed above and he had been forced to climb through, sweating and praying he would not trip or kick a rock into the chasm. He could hear the rope rubbing on the rock above him now. Scrap, scrap, scrap… It was a tiny sound, but it was magnified in the stillness of the cavern.

What am I doing here? he thought, not for the first time. I used to be an innkeeper. How did I ever get to this point? He remembered every step clearly, but it seemed so unreal—only a few weeks ago he had been a simple innkeeper in Indrake, and now he was breaking into an ultra-secure prison on another world to free a murderous, violent man.

There was a flutter of pale white in the darkness near his head. It was a moth, as big as his hand and faintly luminescent. It was beating its wings slowly, as if time had slowed down. Flap…flap…flap. More appeared around him, coming up from below, until he was surrounded in a cloud of white.

Bruce remained as still as a stone, trying not even to breathe. One of the moths landed on his sleeve and he saw its feet burn tiny holes in the fabric. A small tongue of flame came from its mouth and singed the cloth before it took off.

The moths swirled around him, but most did not seem to notice him. Bruce wondered if they were blind. They continued upwards in a shifting column of white wings until they were lost from sight. What if they were going for the rope?

At that moment, Bruce saw two small lights appear in the darkness in front of him—eyes, glowing brightly green through his spectacles. In their small light, he saw that he was hanging directly in front of a large cage. Inside stood a giant, looking out at him.

The rope shivered slightly. Bruce could imagine those tiny, burning feet walking along his lifeline as the fibers melted and popped. He held out his hand and the giant in the cage reached out towards him. Their outstretched hands were only a few feet apart. Desperately, Bruce swung his body, moving closer and closer until he felt contact and his hand disappeared inside the huge fist of the giant.

As he was being pulled towards the cage, he felt the rope give way above him. There was a jerk on his arm and a second later, he was being forced through the narrow bars of the cage. The giant man put him down and sat back, saying nothing.

Bruce saw now that the man was about eight feet tall, dressed in a dark-grey smock, with long, wild hair. For a moment, the two stood looking at each other until Bruce reached down into his bag and pulled out two circles of metal. He clasped one around his arm and gave the other to the prisoner, motioning for him to do the same. The man took it slowly and then opened it as far as it would go and slipped it onto his wrist.

“Can you hear me?” Bruce said, inside his mind.

“Yes,” came the deep reply, resonating inside Bruce’s mind. “How can I hear you if you not making any sound?”

Magic,” Bruce said with a smile. “Your name is Chirik? I am here to get you out.”

“And who are you?” Chirik asked. “Have the Feyluns sent you here?”

“I do not know who they are,” Bruce said. “I was sent here by a woman named Klista. She wants you to work for her. She said that if you agree, you would be free and would lead an army for her.”

Chirik looked steadily at Bruce and his eyes glowed a little brighter, then dimmed. “I do not know anyone named Klista, and I am a mercenary, not a general. Anyway, there is no way out of here. The bars are unbreakable and the only key to the cell door was destroyed. They pulverized it and blew the dust through the keyhole at me.”

“There is a way,” Bruce said, gingerly pulling out a large, metal key in the shape of a tree with spreading branches. “This key will open any door, Klista said. Put it up to the keyhole and it will do the rest.”

Chirik took the key. It fit inside his palm easily. He put it up to the keyhole and as the key touched the metal of the door, the spreading branches contracted and slipped through the small hole. There was a soft whine and then a loud clunk. Chirik pulled the door open.

“Magic, indeed,” he said through his thoughts. “I have sat here for time uncounted, hungering for a freedom I knew would never come. I would have killed myself if I had had the means, but instead I was left to be tortured in darkness and silence. Is this Klista a sorceress that she could find me here and find a way for me to escape?

“Possibly, but you will have to ask her that,” Bruce said. “She rarely tells me what she is thinking or how she does things, besides saying magic. She also told me to give you this.”

Bruce took out a bundle wrapped in cloth and gave it to Chirik, who unwrapped it. It was a hammer, about a foot long. Chirik held it up and as he did, it grew until it became a huge warhammer, taller than Bruce.

Chirik’s eyes glowed like white fire and Bruce could see the look of intense joy on his face. Suddenly, Chirik roared a battle-cry that echoed and re-echoed off the walls of the cavern.

“Get behind me and out of the way of the hammer,” he cried out loud—the words he spoke were foreign to Bruce, but the meaning came through to his mind. Chirik flung the door open and charged through, Bruce following as close behind as he dared.

They ran through narrow tunnels that got broader as they ascended. Bruce could only faintly see the path ahead of them by the light of Chirik’s eyes. A statue loomed up in the middle of the corridor but Chirik pulverized it with one swing of the warhammer. Another and another appeared in front of them, but all of them turned to dust a moment later. Chirik came to a huge door and started to pound on it with the hammer. After five hits, the door cracked, after twelve, it splintered, and after the sixteenth, Bruce was able to crawl out into the cool night air. A moment later, Chirik joined him.

The sky was dark blue and large red stars burned overhead, just as Bruce had left it less than an hour before. Behind them, a huge tower loomed up in silhouette against the night sky. The land about them was dead—no lights could be seen and only a faint wind sighed through the bare rocks.

“Why are there no guards in the tower?” Bruce asked.

“What guards there are, are usually sufficient,” Chirik said. He said this out loud, but it was still through his mind that Bruce understood the words. “Without your magic key and the warhammer of Clemin, escape would have been impossible.”

“I am glad to see again, Bruce,” another voice said in his head. Bruce turned to see Klista coming towards them, holding a glowing orb in front of her. She was dressed in her customary red cloak and smiling. “Chirik, my name is Klista. Remember it well, since I am your rescuer. Will you work with me?”

“You saved me from that hell,” Chirik said. “Whatever I can do for you, my lady, I will.”

“Good,” Klista said. “We have one more important person to get and then the great campaign begins.”

She touched both of them on the arm. A flash of light enveloped them and they were gone.


Klutz

This is the first of the Open Prompts stories, a story written using elements suggested by other bloggers. Here are the included elements:

1. Kermit, a klutz (suggested by me)
2. Spelunking (suggested by April)
3. Bobbie Sue (one leg), Grandpa (an alien abductee?), Big Al (the hero), Tookie (a stoner dog) (suggested by Christopher De Voss)
4. A dark tone (suggested by The Bumble Files)
5. A neon-pink umbrella (suggested by keep your youth forever)
6. Nisha, Kermit’s exact opposite (met in a hospital) (suggested by originalS)

Kermit Allan Mercer lay in a hospital bed, trying not to listen to the maddeningly incessant beep of the equipment that stood around him. Both his legs were broken and four ribs were cracked. But he had had worse injuries in the past, and considering he had been hit by a bus—tripping on the curb and falling into its path—he couldn’t complain.

“Hey, Big Al!” he heard a voice say from the doorway. It was his grandfather. Grandpa Spencer had always hated the name Kermit and insisted on calling him by his middle name. “Hey Big Al!” Every time. With Grandpa Spencer’s accent, it sounded like Abigail.

“Have they cut them off yet?” Grandpa Spencer asked, indicating Kermit’s legs. He laughed and walked in, followed by Kermit’s sister, Bobbie Sue, who wheeled herself in in a wheelchair. Her right leg was missing.

“Why are you in the wheelchair?” Kermit asked. “Where’s your prosthetic?”

“Aw, I put my foot through the weak spot in the porch and cracked it off again,” Bobbie Sue said. “I got an appointment with the doctor tomorrow. Hey, we brought you Tookie.”

She pulled out a small, scruffy dog and placed him on the covers. The dog blinked a few times and promptly walked off the bed, landing with a thud on its head. It lay on its back with all four legs in the air for a moment before getting up and wandering around listlessly in a small circle.

Grandpa Spencer and Bobbie Sue only stayed for twenty minutes but it was still enough time for Bobbie Sue to accidentally run her wheelchair into a cart of lunches and knock half the trays to the ground. Kermit was almost relieved when they left: there were just too many things to go wrong in a hospital. They left Tookie, although Kermit was pretty sure it was against the rules.

They had only been gone a few minutes when a girl appeared at the door. She was cute, with short curly hair. She was wearing camo pants and a black T-shirt and was carrying a neon-pink umbrella.

“Hey, I’m looking for my grandfather,” she said, sticking her head in the door. “Is he here?”

“This is a private room,” Kermit said, with a gesture that asked her to consider if he looked like her grandfather.

“Ah, sorry,” she said, but then she looked at him closely. “Hey, aren’t you Kermit Mercer? I saw you on TV, on that documentary.” She laughed and then pointed at his legs. “So, what’s the damage this time?”

“Please, just shut up,” Kermit said. He had enough comments like that from the doctors when they were treating him; he didn’t need it from random strangers too.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to make fun or anything,” the girl said. “I’m really sorry— it was just a surprise to actually see you. I’m Nisha, by the way.”

“Hey.”

She came in another step and twirled her umbrella absently. “So, is it true that your whole family is cursed with klutziness? Sorry if that’s the wrong word for it. Is it just bad luck?”

“Well, there’s nothing good about it,” Kermit said, relenting a little from his first impression of her.

“How many bones have you broken?” Nisha said, coming closer, a look of fascination on her face. “More than ten?”

“38 bones, including these. I perforated an eardrum, cut off the first knuckle of my baby finger and had seven concussions. That’s nothing though: my younger sister tripped going over the railroad tracks and got her leg cut off. And of course, my parents…”

“Yeah, I heard about them on the documentary too. I’m really sorry about that.”

“Thanks, but they died when I was only five, before I even knew anything about the so-called Mercer Klutz gene. I grew up with my grandparents—my mother’s parents, of course. Grandpa and Grandma Mercer both died before they turned fifty, by falling onto or into things.”

Nisha came and sat down by the bed. “Well, I think—oh my, is that a dog? Is it high or something?”

Kermit looked over the side of the bed to see Tookie standing with his head to wall, walking steadily forward but not moving at all. “That’s just my dog, Tookie,” he said. “His mother had her puppies in our garage, right by some paint cans. The fumes killed all the puppies except Tookie, but he’s never been quite right either. I guess we even pass our bad luck off on our pets.”

Nisha put a hand on the covers and brushed against Kermit’s. He started to pull away but then stopped. “Sorry, force of habit.”

“Sorry if I startled you,” she said.

“No, it’s just that most people don’t want to touch me at all. They see that stupid documentary on how scientists are trying to isolate the Mercer gene for extraordinary klutziness or bad luck or whatever and then they think it’s transferrable, like the plague.”

“Is it?” Nisha asked.

Kermit looked at her bleakly. “I don’t know, honestly.”

“Well, do you know what, Kermit,” she said, giving him a dazzling smile. “I think I’m immune. I have never been in an accident, I’ve never had an injury, and I have wonderful luck. I met you today, didn’t I?”

Despite the cheesy line, he smiled. When she left a few minutes later—with another knee-weakening smile and a promise to return the next day—he hated to see her go.

The next day started badly. Tookie wandered off and got himself stuck with a syringe of morphine. It took some hurried intervention by Grandpa Spencer to keep him from being sent to the pound. Nisha arrived just as Grandpa Spencer was carrying off the sleeping, smiling dog, and Kermit introduced them.

“He seems nice,” she said, after Grandpa Spencer had left.

“He’s great,” Kermit said. “He raised me, after all. Of course, he does believe that he was abducted by aliens that live under the sea. I guess no one’s perfect.”

“So…no scuba diving then?” she asked and he laughed. “Seriously though, I wanted to ask you something. When you get out of here, do you want to go spelunking with me?”

Kermit studying her face for a moment. “You mean caving? Are you making fun of me?”

“No! Of course not. Look, it’s safe and I’ve done it lots of times. There are helmets and ropes and—”

“Look at this!” Kermit said, pointing to his legs. “I did this waiting for a bus. How do you think safety ropes are going to help?”

“But you’ll be with me,” Nisha said. “I’m good luck, I swear.”

“You don’t understand,” he said with a groan. “Danger surrounds me every day. It finds me whether I like it or not. I don’t go seeking it out on my own.”

“Well, maybe you should,” Nisha said, standing up. “Take the offensive for once in your life. Laugh in the face of death. Anyway, I gotta go. Maybe I’ll come by tomorrow. Think about it, at least.”

She did come again—several times a week, in fact, and Kermit did think about the idea. He could admit to himself that he was afraid—terrified, in fact—but he didn’t like being afraid. He hated it. His whole life had been one big defensive maneuver, dodging one potential danger after another—or as often as not, not dodging it. Finally, the week before he was released, he told Nisha that he would do it. He would go spelunking with her.

They went together a month later. Nisha picked him up and they drove for three hours out into the mountains on a dirt road. That ended and they walked another half hour to a dark cave mouth protruding from a moss-covered hillside. After they were suited up (Nisha triple-checked Kermit’s harness, with a wink and an amused smile), she led the way down into the darkness.

For Kermit, the initial climb down into the flashlit abyss was a mixture of terror and wonderstruck incredulity—terror that he might die at any moment, and incredulity that he had not already died. He fell down four times before they reached the first rest point, but although he was dirty and scraped, he was not bleeding or incapacitated. It seemed like a miracle.

Then came the big climb, an almost vertical drop of a hundred feet. The foot of the cliff sat next to a still pool of dark water.

“Do we have to?” Kermit asked, feeling faint at the mere sight. It made Russian roulette look like a safe bet.

“Well, we didn’t have to come down here at all,” Nisha said. “Don’t worry—there are lots of handholds and I’ll belay you down and up again. Okay?” He desperately wanted to refuse, but in the face of her indomitable optimism, he just nodded.

Somehow, he made it to the bottom. She lowered him slowly while he scrabbled ineffectively at the crevices and cracks in the rock face. She climbed down effortlessly after him and they had a snack at the bottom. After walking around and exploring a little, they decided to go back.

She was tying the rope onto her harness when she looked at him and asked, “Do you remember the Gray family?”

The shock Kermit felt could not have been greater if she had suddenly kicked him into the icy water behind him. “Why would bring that up?” he asked. “Oh God, why would mention that?”

She smiled, but her smile suddenly didn’t seem as pleasant. “So, you must remember George and Bertha Gray, whose son Brett you accidentally knocked under a school bus. You guys were in Grade 10, right? You remember the investigation, when the police acquitted you of any wrongdoing?”

Kermit just stared at her. “Why are you saying this?” he asked faintly. “Do you know how many nightmares I’ve had about that? It haunts me every single day.”

“Well, it haunts George and Bertha Gray too,” Nisha said. “They still hold you responsible. They had petitioned the school to have you removed on the grounds that you were a danger to the other students, but no one listened. And then you killed Brett. Anyway,” she continued, when she saw she wasn’t going to get a response, “the Grays paid me quite a bit of money to make sure you stay down in this cave. For Brett, but also for everyone else you are going to hurt or kill in your life through your…klutziness. Feel free to explore, but this cave has no exit except up this cliff. Okay?”

“Nisha…”

“Not my real name. Anyway, take care. Gotta go.” She started to climb, leaving him behind in the darkness.

For a moment, he watched her ascend, moving away from him. He had no ropes—not that it would have mattered if he had. He considered his options.

He would surely die if he stayed in the cave. He would surely fall if he tried to climb up. Dying by falling would be quicker and the further up he got, the more chance that he would die on impact. He took off his helmet and started to climb.

It was strange to be climbing without hope, to be climbing up only because it was the fastest way down. He searched for handholds in the dark, not worrying about how close he was to the top, but only trying to get a minimum distance from the bottom before he fell. Several times, he slipped, but he hung on and pulled himself back up. After a few minutes, he reached up and felt something hard and rubbery. It kicked when he grabbed it. It was Nisha’s boot. He had caught up with her.

“What are you doing? Let go of me!” she cried, kicking down at him more ferociously. Her heel smashed against his forehead and he fell back, grasping blindly as he did. He grabbed her boot and heard a shriek as she tumbled over him and down into the darkness. He heard a snap as the rope pulled up savagely on her body and slammed it into the wall.

Kermit opened his eyes to see that he was clinging to the rope that was now stretched taut from Nisha’s weight. He also saw that he was within three feet of the top. Miracles abounded that day: he made it to the top.

“I’m sorry,” he called down. “I think some of my bad luck rubbed off on you after all. Maybe we just traded.” Then he felt bad and climbed out and called 911.

*         *         *

The paramedics came, eventually, and incredibly, Nisha was not dead. A day later, Kermit was in the hospital waiting room with Grandpa Spencer and Bobbie Sue while Nisha was being operated on. Tookie was chewing thoughtfully on a nearby plastic plant when a surgeon came out.

“Well, she’ll survive,” he said. “We repaired a lot of the damage, although her spinal cord was broken—she’ll never walk again. Actually, I’m surprised she survived at all. She’s incredibly lucky.”


Caves for Rent – Inquire Within

“Ugh, I feel like a zombie,” my wife said, crashing facedown onto the bed.

“Nonsense,” I said, surreptitiously checking her skin for a greyish pallor. She had been saying that sort of thing for about a week now and although I never truly believed her, I kept a baseball bat by my side of the bed.

“I’m just so tired. I never get enough sleep. I just wish there was a cave I could crawl into and sleep for a month.”

I’ve never been really big on metaphors, so I googled “caves for rent”. There were a surprisingly large numbers of results: some absurd, some merely expensive. To narrow it down, I typed, “just a cave to sleep in for a month”. One result came up.

ARE YOU TIRED OF TOO MUCH LIGHT?  WANT TO HIDE FROM DEBT COLLECTORS?

TRYING TO NURTURE YOUR INNER TROGLODYTE?

SLEEPY BEAR CAVE RESORTS HAS IT ALL!!!!!

I wasn’t sure what a troglodyte was, but the ad sounded enthusiastic and anyone who used five exclamations points in a row had to be sincere. I called the number.

A week later, I packed my wife’s bag while she was in the bathroom and told her we were taking a ride. She wouldn’t get in the car until I gave her some explanation, so I said we were going for ice cream. Then I felt like a jerk, so I really did stop and got some. We were almost finished our cones when we pulled up to the cave I had rented. It was just a dark hole coming out of the side of a hill with a steel door inset into the entrance.English: Tom Taylor's Cave, How Stean Gorge. T...“What’s this?” she asked. “Are you going to kill me and throw my body in a cave?”

“Surprise!” I said and then had to explain I wasn’t referring to killing her.

“So . . . you’re going to lock me in a dark hole?” she asked hesitantly.

“Well . . . yeah, but not in those exact words. I rented you a cave. You said you wanted to sleep in a cave for a month. I booked it for a month, but they threw in an extra week free. Food’s provided and there’s—I checked the brochure I had pushed up my sleeve—natural air conditioning.”

“So . . . you want to lock me in a dark cave all by myself for five weeks?” I couldn’t interpret the expression on her face, but my confidence in the merits of my plan was beginning to be shaken; even more so when I saw tears forming in her eyes.

“Well, honey, you know—”

“Thank you!” she cried. “Thank you so, so much! I love you.” She threw her arms around me, gave me a quick kiss and then ran off towards the cave entrance, suitcase in hand. She pulled the huge steel door shut and it made a loud clang as it locked.

I got back into the car with a self-satisfied smile. Now it was just me for five weeks, just like when I was a bachelor.

Uh, I guess I’ll have to cook for myself. Well, no getting around that. I liked ramen.

And do the laundry and dishes. Ugh. Maybe I could make a big pile for five weeks.

No sex for five weeks. Dang. Dang, dang, dang.

I jumped out of the car and pounded on the door of the cave. “Hey, honey! I was thinking, why don’t we put up dark curtains in the bedroom. I can try to snore less . . . sometimes. Honey?”

There was no answer. I turned and sadly got back in the car.

 


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