//Welcome back for another week of magical adventure! I want to thank my dedicated readers for making it this far. It makes me feel happy inside when I see you’ve been reading this. Even happier when I receive positive comments at the pub from the readers themselves! Thank you. 🙂 Enjoy and i’ll see you next week//

The TSG is cold and I already yearn for the fresh, hot water that the shower provides after a long trip.

“Right, I think that’s it” Jack is scouting the front room with his eyes, making sure there is nothing we have missed. A tackle sack stands proudly by his feet as Jolene and Jack finish pulling their stubborn oversuit sleeves over their arms. I can feel the cold air reach my buttocks as I remember how my oversuit was filled with holes and caked with mud. My undersuit padded me out fairly and the necklace, placed firmly in my pocket. I remembered, only a few hours prior, being told not to wear the necklace at all costs, but only to hold it with me in person.

Jack stood up and smiled at me, looking me directly in the eyes: “Are you ready”

I smile back and nod.

“Then let’s go” His friendly tune picked up and he began to leap outside, down the path and off to the cave before I had even got the energy to take a step.

My feet wade slowly through the air, my boots feeling especially heavy. The mist rolling round the town of Castleton. Back in the same cave I had always dreamed of when out in Korea. My humble abode that is peak cavern. Our footsteps may have been heavy, but the darkness of the night hid our looming shadows as we ran across the small and quiet village of Castelton.

Little did I know, that something ever so peculiar was about to commence. The strangest sensation: Once we began to enter the darkness of the cave, my feet began to grow lighter. My heart leapt as if a huge sense of joy had taken over my body. My limbs filled with a delicate sense of energy. The boots that held me firmly to the ground, became lighter and lighter the more I stode into the caves with the others. My ignorance of what was happening shrouded me and I began to run because it felt so good to do so. My light boots surpassed the others and ran further and further into the cave.

“WHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

I screeched at the top of my voice, letting out the joy I felt as the feeling of almost floating on the cave floor. The more I travelled in, the more my body felt a strong power that filled me with awe. Before, I was stiff, but now, I am free. My body felt incredible, like nothing was weighing it down, yet I felt so powerful and in control.

Now, I was standing in a small room, no bigger than my own bedroom. I suddenly ‘woke up’ out of this feeling and looked around, the boulders filled every crevice, but a clear path from the years of cavers before me had trod deep into the mud.  I realised that in fact, maybe I had gone too far? I waited for the others patiently to catch up with me. I had some time to recollect this strange sense that had come over me. Was this…? Was this the kit? I didn’t want to be too sure, perhaps I had had too many Marsbars before going in the cave and the glucose was currently spiking in my blood.

The others finally caught up with me.

“We thought we’d lost you!” Jolene caringly ran towards me and embraced me with loving arms.

“I’m alright…I think I’m high is all.. I don’t really understand what’s going on..”

Jolene pats me on the back and assures me everything is fine.

We go through the muddy ducks and ensure our way to the rest of the cave. Running through the cave felt easier than normal. Comments such as “Holy crap- I can really do this now!” were constantly said to myself.

Whilst perusing surprise view, Jake gave me a comment with distain in his voice: “With an ego like that I’m sure you can’t even fit through any squeeze ever”

I hesitatingly replied: “…You’re right but.. I’ve never felt this good about caving before.. I don’t know why”

I began leaping through the cave, with no quarry or trouble. Each step was easily taken. Every rope I climbed felt easy and barely did I feel cold.

We came to a small, rounded chamber, with a bucket so carefully placed, high above us: when it filled with water, it would overturn using a small weighted contraption to clean a particular wall of the cave. One by one, to leave the room, we climbed up the rope.

Jolene was the first to take hold of the rope. As she climbed up the wall below the bucket, my head rose higher and higher, as I kept my eye on her. My eyes wondered to the ceiling.

And that’s when it happened.

Slowly, the roof of the cave disappeared before my eyes. I saw the night sky, and the stars. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light outside, the ceiling seemed to peel away more, like a piece of burning paper slowly peels itself into dust. Above me, lay an old building, perhaps 50 meters above me. The building lay in ruin, and the old grey stone withered under the moonlight that met my eyes. It must have been..

“THE CASTLE!” I cried out.

The team looked around at me, Jolene now at the top of the climb, staring back down at me. I snapped my neck back down towards the crowd now looking at me in shock. As I turned my face away from the ceiling, the moonlight that had danced in the room now disappeared, like a light switch had been switched off.

“What? What do you mean ‘The Castle’?”

The shock had at this point consumed me and I am not sure what to say .. but felt the need to explain:

“I just think that this place we’re in, right here…. would correspond to the castle of Castleton. Perhaps it’s directly above us right now? If anywhere, surely it’s here”

Jack gave a smile and stoked his beard. “Interesting thought. No I think it’s more likely to be just the fields or some houses directly above us and not the castle. It’s a nice thought though.”

We smile at each other and for a moment, I want to believe him. As he and the others turn back round, and Jake grabs the rope, I turn my head back up to the ceiling. At first, the cave ceiling sits there, dark, cold and lonesome. But then, just as before, the ceiling, straight before my eyes, begins to peel away, unravelling the moon’s light that shines through the ground. The blank space between the ceiling and the ground is vast. But I can see the underlying, deep foundations of the castle, up to the very roof that crumbled down. I could see the full moon and the tree roots that clung to the earth nearby in minute detail. I could see the posts of fences that had been forced into the earth, but hardly touched the rock we now climbed upon. Seeing this, I realised how far we were underground, and suddenly felt sick, like claustrophobia had crept up on me all over again.

“Elise. Stop staring at the ceiling and climb this rope” A sharp voice snapped at me.

I looked up. Indeed, I had been so engrossed thatI had not noticed the others.