It was darker now, he wouldn’t have believed it possible. It was, deep, impenetrable and velvet. For the first time Tom was afraid. When the others had suggested the trip it sounded like fun. A chance to explore the newly discovered pothole, to be the first and so have their names in the journals as the original team opening up a new cavern, shining light on the newly opened place. He wasn’t very experienced and found the roping complicated, he had done it wrong and it had stuck twice on the trial run, the rope catching in the pulley but they told him it would be fine. He knew that they were finding him irritating, they were all so much more experienced but hey, that wasn’t his fault. Anyway in the end it hadn’t been fine, it had let him down and as he began to slide into the smaller cavern, pushing and slithering on the loose gravel at the head the damned thing had failed tossing him end over end into this pit.
His headlamp had helped at first the bright gleam lighting the way, a cone of brilliance as he tried to take stock of his surroundings. He was in the bottom of a deep gulley, great wet walls sandwiched his sore body and every way he tried to move became smaller, the progress harder and when he had done the four points he had to acknowledge that the only escape was back up the way that he had come.
“Hi guys, bloody stuck down her I guess. What’s the plan?” No response. He tried again “Hello – Davey, Si can you hear me?”
Dripping water was the only sound, plopping into a small pool that he’d spotted before his lamp gave out. He reached out, yes there it was just at arm’s length. The dripping cheered him; at least he wouldn’t need to worry about running out of water. He shouted up again “Hey guys, could do with contact – I’m not hurt much I don’t think but there’s no other way out. Are you dropping a rope?”
They must have gone for help, well that was against the rules, both of them leaving but he’d take that up with them later. He knew what their reaction would be, feigned yawning and rolling of eyes. He didn’t know why they didn’t seem to click and knew that it was important to get on with your team, ah well time enough for all that later. He would have liked to have joined another club but he’d tried them all now and this was no better than the others. He couldn’t help it if he was more particular and smarter than everyone else. If they couldn’t see that he was simply trying to give them the benefit of his superior intelligence then that was their problem, not his.
“Hey – is anyone up there? It’s cold down here.” God he was getting cold, he was starting to shiver, that wasn’t good. It wasn’t shock of course he was holding it together, calm in a crisis; he always knew that was the main thing, keep calm.
He would have a drink. He reached out, odd – he thought the pool was at arm’s length, it was nearer now, and surely it was deeper. “Hey guys I think this pool is affected by the tide after all. I think it would be a great idea to get a move on. Are you there?” There was no response…
He had lost track of time now, the pool had filled and spread, he was sitting in water, it had covered his legs and chilled him deep down. The shivering was uncontrollable, the water was salt, undrinkable, it wasn’t dripping through the walls as he had first thought but seeping along the floor of the hole directly from the cove. He tried not to think about the cove, the tide, the danger but it was coming faster now, each few moments it swilled around him deeper, more threatening.
“Hey guys, the hole is filling. You need to get me out of here.” Of course if the water became deep enough he would float up to the surface wouldn’t he, that’s right and then hopefully he could clamber out. If it was deep enough, if it didn’t make it to the top though, if it stopped below his arms reach what then? He knew what then, he would have to tread water, keep himself afloat until they came back with help. Where the hell were they? The town was only fifteen minutes away and they had the car they should have been back an age ago. He was going to create a stink about this, just wait until the next meeting, he would have them for this it was unacceptable.
Hours had past, the water ingress had stopped. He was floating, halfway to the entrance, he could see now the lighter grey where the sky was lit by stars. The others had let him down, they had run away and left him, scared and panicked. Well he supposed that they had gone for the mountain rescue team, idiots. He was so tired, now though, so very, very tired. His extremities were numb, his lips cracked and his eyes swollen closed with the salt water.
“Hello – anyone.” He had seen his father earlier, floating in the water, that had shocked him briefly and then it seemed to make supreme sense, Dad was always there when he needed him, he had said he’d be back. Perhaps it wouldn’t be long, he hoped not, the exhaustion was incredible. He had gone under a few times. The temptation to simply give up was huge, why struggle any longer, he could have peace, it wouldn’t hurt anymore. Here was his father again. “Hi dad, am I glad to see you.” As he stilled his legs and opened his mouth to welcome the water, he reached for his father and as they sank together to the peace of the deep he saw above him a gleam of light, startling in the darkness, and the dark shape against the grey of the opening.