Welcome to Chapter 2 of this caving adventure

The TSG Caving Hut; dark, black and surrounded in the very whisper of the fear of death.

… It wasn’t always like this.

Only an hour or so ago it was vibrant, colourful, full of my friends, talk of beer and chatter of our latest trips into the remote darkness of Giants or Peak cavern.  I can still remember Jack’s smile as he began to explain what his latest brewed beer was, and his plans to get everyone to try it. Even through my hatred of beer, I still would have given it a try if he had brought some round. We’re family: that’s what we do. But now.. everything has changed. Jack isn’t here. I’m here. Guy is here. The whiteboard is here. It reads: “Call out 11PM”. The clock is here. It reads 11:30. Whilst we are out of breath from running, my thoughts collect themselves to what really happened inside that goddamn cave.

Just one hour ago I thought I was going to die. I was on the floor, with something that I can only say is ‘not human’ about to kill me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to shout and scream but god gave me no strength to do so. Then, with a jolt of the head, the monster’s face twisted once again, and his bony arms travelled towards me as if I had been picked to be only his for his 10 minute meal of pleasure. In a flash, a rock no bigger than a giant pillow hit the head of this thing, jarring its jaw, smashing into its head like a cannon ball hitting a polystyrene wall. The ridges of the rock invading the very livelihood of this being, shaping its way across the flesh of the face, cutting through ridge by ridge, scale by scale. Recreating and degrading this alien’s head. Guy stood behind, having using the last of his strength to throw a boulder at this … this thing. The monster fell slowly, as a petal from a rose takes its time to fall, so did this savage beast. First its arms fell flat onto the ground, then it’s chest onto my knees, as if a man begs for what he wants, so too did this creature fell at my knees like it had a dying wish for me. I felt the crushing weight on my legs, suffocating the blood that shot round my veins in panic. No sooner as it did our ears both pricked as we heard the other monsters move towards us.

“They must have heard us- quick” Guy shouts, although all I hear is the muffled vibrations of my own inner being second guessing itself-did I live?

Guy then rushes towards me and pushes the long and skinny animal on its side away from my legs and yanks my arms up in a slightly forceful way. I am too dizzy to understand the full extent of what is unfolding, but I hear the hissing ringing into my ears. They’re getting closer. I feel hazy. I can’t feel my body that well still, but I hear the hiss like I can almost understand what they are saying. Guy scans the room and finds a small crevice, perhaps a little too perfect, for two human beings to fit into.  Arm around waist, he supports the little strength I have to walk towards the only safety we might have. I feel his waist through his thick oversuit and pray he’s not the last human being I’ll see in my life. The hissing gets louder, and he seems to stuff me into this little crevice of hope, a small chamber of dreams. Our passport to safety. And there, we sat, watched the monsters climb over the wall and towards the dead being. We waited.

My breath became heavy and the air thick as I sat on the ridged rocks. We had made it. I sighed the smallest sigh of relief I could muster, so thankful to be alive but so wary to not make a sound. We peered out of our hole. The monsters licked the dead body, as if to inspect it. No more than seven of them gathered round and licked the blood that had been spilled only moments ago.

I had never heard the sound of a meat grinder. But I knew what it sounded like now. The way it squeezes and compressed the meat, squishing it into non existance, such as mud is squished below my powerful bare feet on the floor. It would squeeze past my toes and to the top of my foot. The cracking sound as the bone breaks in two, again and again. Such as when ice is crunched in one’s mouth. So easily done, but bringing much pain as the gums wince with cold. This is the sound we sat and heard whilst we saw these creatures tear their fellow being apart. We saw their jaws sink deep into the flesh, tearing each limb from limb. They savagely kneeled over the body and tore it to shreds using all the might they had left. One by one, they took as much flesh as they could carry in their measly arms and carried it off, past the wall, until the whole body had left the chamber. The hissing sound slowly faded, their steps trailed off and I relaxed my back into the rock behind me.

I squeezed the attachment on my helmet to free my head and hair. The dim light shining onto the ground. Guy takes off his helmet too and looks at me. His face is torn just a little with age, but even more so with fear. His deep red hair falls like golden and brown leaves across his forehead, touching upon his eyebrows.

“They eat their own kind? What kind of savages are these things?” He questions.

“It doesn’t matter. What we need to address is what we can do to get out of here.” I continue. “It’s obvious to me that these beings don’t have any eyes, so use hearing as their way of hunting. Furthermore, they use their hearing to navigate the cave. This means that they either know this cave inside out, OR they have such good hearing they use that as their primary sense of movement.”

I stop and give a moment to think deeper, my voice seems to become firmer the more I talk.

“They’re skinny. They havn’t eaten in a while. Plus, most animals above ground will resort to cannibalism if they’re pushed to the limit of hunger. Animals will even sometimes eat their own young.. just to survive. And that’s what we just witnessed

Guy stops for a moment and whispers to himself “Nature red in Tooth and Claw..”

“Alright Darwin. Let’s get a move on.”

I get up and suddenly I stop myself leaving the shelter and turn back to see him still sitting there, staring into the wall, in a totally different world of shock.

“Guy. Thank you for saving my life. I love you.”

His eyes flickered up at me and, now with my helmet carefully placed onto my head, I could see his dim smile cross his face. He knew exactly what I had meant. We had reached the stage of pure unconditional friendship to the point where love wasn’t a big deal to blurt out anymore. It was an unspoken given, a deep tie never to be discussed thoroughly. I knew he’d usher me out without saying it back. The thing is, he had said it already. Not verbally. He said he loved me by saving my life. He said he loved me by staying my friend through my unpredictable behaviour. Through my intense anxieties over the years, to my somewhat uncivilised way of thinking. He had watched me grow from a small naïve teen to the adult woman I am today.

He walks towards me. “Lets go.” And without so much of a word or a sound, we slowly walked out the cave, inch by inch, rock by rock, our friendship conquering the darkness.

 

So now here we are, having escaped the confines of the alien’s tomb. Sitting in the TSG. Deciding what to do.

I crash through the cupboards, my heart broken, my hands shaking as I hurl out my words at Guy in the kitchen: “We need to find anything we can to eat before we go back in there. We need energy now.”

As I scramble to find some old mars bars at the back of the cupboard, faces of my caving family flash through my eyes. I see Gamble. I see Will. I see Leo. And Jack. All the new bare faced freshers. All confined in that cave. Why were they not out yet? My love for my closest friends thrashes into my eyes and I feel my face clench up. My hands become loose and I hang my head. “They’re some of the best fucking cavers I know. They would know how to handle any situation but not a simple callout time?” The heat of anger suddenly rises throughout my body and I scream as my knees drop to the floor, leaving mars bars scattered around my feet. Through my tears I snatch each mars bar and eat them as quickly as possible, stuffing them into my face as I mumble: “Fuck veganism. Fuck this. Fuck my own feelings of being scared.” I was now determined more than ever to help these people I loved so much. I grabbed some small kitchen knives and buried them deep into my inner pockets.

Guy sits quietly at the table. He does not move. Back upright. Face, drained of colour. His eyes are grey marbles, set at point on the wall. He clears his throat and I turn round to face him, eyes still glassed at the thought of my loved ones in danger, chocolate smudged around my face.

“Don’t go back in there Elise.”

An air of unbreakable silence sweeps over me and my face falls flat.

“It will only kill you. Everyone already inside are better cavers than you, they know what they are doing and you don’t. You’re clumsy, you have roughly ONE term of caving experience and you have more ability in writing bloody trip reports than you do caving. You get scared. You squeal. Honestly the best thing to do is stay here and I’ll phone call out.”

I am in utter shock, my face crumbling under the weight of his words. I shout through my tears: “So you expect me to just fucking sit here and wait for the people I love the most to just fucking die under some stupid sub species that have more bone than muscle mass?!?”

“Yes.”

I quake under my own words whilst raising my finger at him.

“No.. you’re not who I thought you were. You say you want to protect me but you won’t save our friends from something that could indefitely kill them”

He stands up, and tells me his judgement straight.

“Elise. I never said I wanted to protect you. You can go in there if you want. You can try. But I promise you it will be fruitless. I know this because you don’t even know Peak Cavern well enough to guide a fresher trip round on your own. But all of a sudden you think you can save your friends single handily? You need to think about this rationally and not from your usual emotional perspective. You’re overreacting”

He sits back down, pulls out the chair next to him, without loosing eye contact.

“So sit here. Wait. And they will come back out eventually, or Cave Rescue will find them.”

He looks down at his phone very naturally and begins calling the number. It’s almost as if he expected me to comply, as I always do. Still in my caving suit I walk to the chair and sit down. I wait.

It’s been 3 seconds already. Time is moving fast. I feel every single muscle clench up throughout my body. Guy is right. He always has been. He always will be. Guy knows best. Guy is the bones that holds the club together. So I sit. I sit and wait. My friends could be on the edge of death. But I wait. They could be being ripped apart right now. But I wait. They could be afraid right now. But I wait. I could be helping. But I wait.

It’s been 5 seconds.

I jerk out of my seat and bolt towards the door.

“Fuck that I’m going back in. They might not need me but they can bloody have me.”

“ELISE.”

I turn around for a split second to face Guy. He looks at me with a half human half god like motion.

“If…

If..”

He hesitates.

“If you go in there

..

You will die. I love you. Please don’t go.”

 

Guy could have been right, but I know myself. I know I’ll get through this until my final chapter. So I am here: having ran out, mars bar remnants still in my mouth as I stare at the ripped hillside. I stand in front of the dark entrance, feeling the extra weight of my spare light around my neck and heavy heart that pounds my chest alight. I feel the dark wind whip across my face. It gives me no chill, but gives the feeling that I shall be lucky on this night. It is an energy that wraps around me. Perhaps the running water that flows and the air I breathe can give me one more chance of life tonight? I feel the tips of my fingers freeze up into the water at the end of my gloves, my blood becoming one with the freezing water. My boots stand strong on the cold hard pavement as I gaze into the abyss.

 

I give myself words of encouragement, still broken down from Guy’s rough words that cut deep into my barely beating heart:

“I’m going to find my friends and save them from monsters. I don’t know why this situation has arrived but I’m going to succeed. Do you know why? Because I’m Elise Freshwater-Blizzard. That’s why. And there’s nothing in this world that could ever stop me.”

I turn my light on and begin marching in.

 

 

//Disclaimer: Don’t ever go into a cave alone. Always go in with atleast two other people who know what they’re doing. //