// The name I have used for the main character is ‘Guy’. Feel free to replace this name with your favourite caver you know whilst you read. //

For this fresher trip, a handful of leaders decided to go to Peak Cavern. We make our way through the small roads and side passages, until we find ourselves staring at the gate. The sky is dark, dull and the wind hits us as if the night was fighting our very heartbeats.  We hurry inside, chatting whilst the freshers follow on, becoming daunted by the large entrance that rips into the side of the hill before us. We are all excited to lead the freshers for the round trip, to guide and help them. I had previously asked one of the leaders, Guy, if he’d take me to explore more of this cave. You see, whilst Peak Cavern round trip was interesting, I wanted to explore more into the depths of this wonderous cave. I wanted to see what it has to offer and what lies beyond my very little experience of the cave. As our group made its way in, the fear and wonder of the fresher’s faces can be seen around us as they struggle through their own emotions of complete vulnerability to the cave. From that moment, we knew we had utter control and guidance of them. We were responsible! As I wade through the icy water of the muddy ducks, it hits my most inner being and I hear faint squeals of the freshers far behind me. Perhaps a deciding moment of if they’d really like to cave or not.

After a period of adventurous caving for freshers, they seem exhausted, exhilarated and oddly confused as to what will happen next. It’s only been 20 minutes by my mind clock. We gather round and watch the freshers climb up a wall, pulling on the rope with their life whilst they dabble with their thoughts on where to put their feet. I watch and smile, knowing I’m just as awful at climbing. I’m quite the clutz, and know my miscoordination and ditzy mind couldn’t navigate my feet well enough to do such a graceful job of climbing as most of these freshers. I shake my head and smile at my own self reflection of caving skills. A hand suddenly grabs my wrist firmly. I look up to see Guy’s face smiling at me as if he knew something I didn’t, leaving me rather confused and at the mercy of his hand around my bony wrist. “I think it’s time to explore, don’t you?” He tentatively tells the group that he’ll take me round for a little exploration, and instructs a two hour call out for us both. He lets go of my wrist.

Guy is delicate as he walks through the caves, as if his heart could tell him where to put his feet. His actions are slow and controlled, like his mind takes over his body before his body can move an inch. He towers above me and I feel safe yet slightly vulnerable under his deep blue eyes, the same colour as the blue water that pools in a copper mine. He moves leisurely, whilst my small stumpy legs move rapidly to keep up with him, my heart pounding whilst he is aloof to the cave.  His knowledge about cave systems stretches far beyond mine ever could, to far parts of the world I shall never see. It was only a few days after I first met him did I realise I could trust him with my life underground. That is something he shall never know.

After 30 minutes of exploring deep within the cave I am secretly exhausted, but keep this locked away unto myself. I have to be strong, I have to be strong for Guy. I desperately want to be as fast, if not faster than him at simply walking through this cave, but my clumsiness catches up with me and a rock becomes entangled with my boots. I shriek and fall to the ground. My embarrassment is masked by my exhaustion, I would rather be at the pub having a beer in this very moment. Guy does not approach me. He turns around, looks at me for a second and states calmly with a smile: “Get up.” I am enraged at his lack of empathy but sweetened by his smile. “Making mistakes now will only make you a better caver in the future, and if I help you now then you’ll always need someone else to help you.” I am further enraged that he is indeed, correct. I’m still thinking of what it would be like to be at the pub though.

We press on as Guy further lectures me about cave formations. I pretend to be interested whilst my energy depletes. We come to a high wall. He beckons me to climb up the wall by simply tilting his head towards it. I sigh under his instruction and begin to climb this wall. The rope that hangs down the wall helps my clumsiness and once at the top, I peer down into what seems to be a canyon. The steam of my breath floats up towards my eyes and my borrowed head lamp is on it’s lowest battery. The steam rises and I begin to point my head in many awkward directions to try and see below into this deep dark pit of fallen rocks. But I see people.

….People? Down here? Is this the fresher group? Well.. no, it couldn’t possibly be, it’s too deep into the cave for them to be here. My eyes adjust and my brain backfires on what I see. Now see here, there is no, * I repeat * NO REASONABLE EXPLANATION FOR THIS.

These were no people. Although, they could be in some other dimension. I drop down ever so slightly, turn around and whisper loudly to Guy. “Guy get the fuck up here right this second!” He climbs up effortlessly, being the 6 foot something that he is, and shines the brightest light, drowning out the darkness with a simple tap of his fingers. Our eyes focus on what we never wanted to see. Men towering at 7 feet gather on the cave floor below us, with their bones protruding out of their baby pink skins. They look somewhat human, but are stretched into strange positions, stagnant on the floor, their backs twisted but their faces remaining at a level height. They have no hair and where I expected to see a face, I only found a small nose, and a mouth that stretched over from one cheek bone to the other. The light that strangled the darkness did not effect these creatures in the slightest. Their bodies remaining still, silent, like they were waiting for something to happen. They reminded me of spiders before you nudge them ever so slightly, only for them to scatter and bolt back into the darkness.

We stared and not even the sound of running water was heard in our minds, racing with thoughts of absurdness. We both lower our weight slowly back down behind the rock.

“Guy what the fuck. What was that” I whispered.

He is silent and his eyes close shut tightly for a few seconds. Mouth gaping open, his warmbac hanging loose around his neck.

“This isn’t real is it? Have we taken drugs? This Doesn’t happen underground. This only happens in weird movies or badly written caving write ups!”  I protest.

Guy lowers himself down and sits on the floor, shaking his head. I remain where I am perched, looking over at these silent wonders. Yes they looked scary, but did they have to be? I so ignorantly thought. The inside of my mind directed me to do it. Like a voice that tells you to jump, like an instinctual calling that cannot be tamed. My eyes darted around my location and found a small rock, my small hands could only just hold onto all of it. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but my mind told me to provoke the scene before me. Whilst the rock was originally meant to be thrown far into this dark pit of rocks, my quivering thoughts ran through into my arm and my uneasy fingers let loose, sending the rock 4 meters below me. As soon as the clash of the rock hit the stone boulder below, my heart raced, eyes widened, and saw the specimens scatter across the bouldered floor. Their long limbs stretching to the nearest rocks, moving towards me. Before I had realised they were moving, their long bony bodies had climbed up half the dark pit and were headed towards me. Panic. PANIC. Though I did not do a single thing. I did not squeal, as no voice could come out of me, I did not move, as my muscles were so tense from shock. I simply watched as these strangely beautiful beings clambered up towards me. For a fleeting moment I felt somehow connected, somehow submissive towards these creatures. I felt the joy that perhaps I was the first human to see these alien beings, that maybe they chose me.

They chose me.

Most of them halted by the small fallen rock and made a hissing sound, I could see their tongues as my dim light shone onto their scaly pink skins. Lizard like licks perturbed the stone as if they were sensing the situation with their tongues. It looked a bit erotic, if you ask me. I climbed down to comfort Guy, who is still sitting on his own, sat in disbelief. I sit down next to him.

“I dropped a rock and they’re distracted by it, I think they’re real and I think they’re not too bad” I whispered deep into his ear and smile.

I turned my head to let his lips touch my ears.

“Elise. Get a grip. I don’t want to know if they’re real or not. Let’s get out of here right now. End of conversation”

Guy bolts up and starts walking away, and I am slightly let down that he is less curious than I.

We hear a smatter of rocks and a long, scaly looking 7 foot creature suddenly appears in front of me. having climbed over the wall, its body now dominates the ground around me, and I am cornered against the stony wall. Still sat down, I feel a sharp rock stick into my bum sharply and I let out a loud ‘OW!’ Guy turns around and sees, what is in fact, quite real: The creature hears me and slowly moves towards me, like it knows I am trapped with nowhere to run. It takes it’s time, inching towards me and halts. I am face to face with it now. Its spine is twisted into a 350 degree angle and its hyperflexibility looks sub-human. It’s head and chest faces the ceiling and all I can see is it’s 2 meter legs and arms. It’s on it’s knees and feet in front of me. It has long fingers and toes, but where nails could be, stumps are found. Its smiley skin reminded me of the rocks that are so easy to slip on underground, but look as soft as ice cream. I can see each one of it’s joints bulging out of it’s skin, like it will burst out of the thick shell of scales. Its neck begins to lower itself down until it’s face slowly reveal itself to me.  It’s mouth wide open as it’s neck cracks and doubles back on itself. It’s fangs overhanging into it’s chin and bald head protruding into the air like a hard boiled egg. I became drawn into where it’s eyes should be and found myself unable to look away. Hooked on the crevices of where its eyeholes were. The skin had now grown over the sockets, perhaps from generations of living here. The more I stared the more my body froze, I couldn’t feel my legs, my arms became loose and numb. I couldn’t even move my pinky finger. My strength had been drained as I stared into this beautiful, wonderful creature. I felt in love, over joyed and at the utility of this being. I only had the strength to say one thing, that fluttered out of my mouth in a short whisper:

“They chose me”

It rose it’s hands up powerfully and I became panic-stricken, but couldn’t move. I wanted to cry. I fully knew in my head and heart that this was the end for me.