CavesBy Norman Turrell
I felt very small as I descended to the Underworld. The line of lost souls were quiet as they took careful paces down into the unknown. I thought it strange that the mysterious creatures of the realm had thought to lay out green carpetting and fit a yellow handrail. To trick their victims I guessed. A boy, younger than me, was grabbed by the arm as he tried to run forward. He must be trying to escape. His mother told him off with a wagging finger. He smiled as she lectured him. I shook my head. He was innocent, but that would not save him.
Dark arcs of shadow stretched over the rough rock of the tunnel ceiling ahead. The sweltering sunshine above was quickly forgotten as the damp, cool air delivered a shiver. I felt my fathers hand reach for mine. I drew it back. I would be alone for this journey. I wanted to be a man.
My eyes grew wide as last arch passed behind me and the vast space of the cave exploded into view. It was a huge mouth and we had entered to be consumed. Lines of sharpened teeth hung from the roof high above, ready to close down on us, ripping our flesh, grinding our bones. Our screams would not save us. The walls would suck in our pain and absorb our pitiful remains.
We walked around the clearly marked path to a central platform. Below us was an oily, black pool, lying still. Waiting. The countless years had endowed it with ultimate patience, the secrets of ancient spider sleep. The unwitting people walk closer... too close. It rises up as they stand, their backs stupidly turned. Towering behind them for a second, a liquid quiver of anticipation shimmers across it shining skin. It surges forward. The next moment does not contain the victims. Their epitaph: a chuckle of a ripple on the surface.
I looked around, trying to take everything in, not listening to the guide doing his boring speech. Orange light reflected off the smooth, undulating curves of the walls and floor. The stones looked melted by some great heat and then instantly frozen. Powerful forces were at work here. A tall spiked pillar stood in front of me. A totem to pray to and beg for mercy. I reach out my hands, placing them on its surface and close my eyes. The cold smoothness is strangely calming. Soon it would run up through my arms, my blood betraying me, carrying its magic through my body. My hands, my legs, stiffening. Joints fusing. My eyes frost over, becoming blue marble, locked eternally gazing upwards. I reconcile myself to my fate; to live forever as a permanent companion to this alien world, a monument to my ignorance.
My father pulls me back gently, explaining that we should not touch. I had seen the signs earlier and foolishly disregarded their warning. The spell was broken; he had saved me. I took his hand then and smiled at his familiar soft face. He was the knight I wanted to be when I grew up. He is my teacher, my mentor and I should be learning. But what was the lesson? That I should fear, beware of the unknown things that hide in the corners of this strange world? That I should be brave and explore the paths of experience?
'It's time to get the bus back to the villa, Billy. Would you like an ice-cream?'
'Oh, yes please!' I beamed, as he led me back to the surface.
I'm standing at the gates of Drogerati Caves in Kefaliona, where we vacationed when I was a young. As I walk round them, I try to remember what my long past self imagined that day, but I can't breath life to it anymore. It's just words now.
This page was added on 06/04/2012
The great use of adjective drew me into the visual imagination of the small child.Beautifully crafted that I felt only another child could fully appreciate as adults become inept with age. Loved this funny and charmingly beautiful story made me giggle.