Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)
(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Four
Jonathan couldn’t resist choosing the most prominent path he could find and following it through the stalactites and stalagmites, being careful at the same time to not stumble over the cliff edges that frequently occurred along the way. It was difficult to illuminate everything while walking with a single-beam flashlight, and he had to constantly sweep it from left to right across his path, leaving the portion of the cavern he was actually walking on in partial darkness between sweeps. If only he had a helmet mounted flashlight, he thought. It was an unsettling feeling to be stepping forward into darkness, especially when he knew there were so many pitfalls nearby. The only way he could manage this minefield of hazards, was to go very slowly and cautiously, all the while telling Sammy to be careful and stay right beside him.
It never occurred to him to leash Sammy, or to wonder how his adventure companion would find his way out of the caverns alone if it became necessary to summon someone to rescue him – or the fact that no one knew they were in the cave – or even where it was – in the first place. All their eggs were in a single basket now, totally dependent on staying safe in an environment of pitch darkness and danger. An accident at this point would be their doom. Jonathan checked his spool to make sure it was trailing out the kite string properly, and he tried to recall the path they had taken up to this point. The entrance tunnel was about seventy feet long, the ledge leading down into the first cave maybe the same length, and perhaps another one hundred feet more across the cavern itself. The hallway portion perhaps another forty feet, and so far this damp cavern another hundred feet long at this point. Mentally adding up the numbers he summed 70 + 70 +100 + 40 + 100 = 380 feet traveled into the cave so far.
The path they followed continued weaving around dripping stalactites and stalagmites, and whenever Jonathan looked over the edge of one of the cliffs, his flashlight highlighted pools of water some distance below the portion they were walking on. The silence within the cave was eerie whenever they paused to listen, for the only sounds he heard were his feet and Sammy’s paws on the path, the swishing motion of his clothes and backpack when he moved, their breathing, and his heartbeat pounding in his chest that he could hear within his ears. At one point his flashlight flickered, and Jonathan decided he had to have his spare batteries close at hand in case the ones in use ran out of juice. He paused long enough to find his two D cell batteries, and moved them from his backpack into the two front pockets of his jeans where he could easily find them in the dark.
After finishing with the batteries while seated on the path, Jonathan held Sammy close to him and turned off his flashlight for a moment. The darkness was terrifying. Sammy started shaking, and Jonathan finally understood the gravity of his choice to enter the caverns. He groped for the kite string in the darkness and discovered that making his way along such a thin lifeline back to the world of light above ground wouldn’t be an easy task at all. In fact, after a minute, he couldn’t even tell which way to follow the string if he had to, as the pitch blackness caused him to lose all sense of orientation. The only way he would know which direction to follow the kite string out in the dark, was the fact he was holding the distant end of the string and spool in his hand. He even found it hard to sit up straight and was worried he might fall over due to a complete lack of orientation.
It was only the sensation of gravity that provided a reference point for him to know which way was was up and down, and that sensation wasn’t always reliable on its own. Jonathan now understood that his eyes were his primary method of orientation, and in complete darkness his inner ears had a hard time of calibrating themselves without another concrete reference to go off of. It was like his brain wanted to ’tilt’ like a pinball machine, telling him ‘game over’ if he was ever lost in perpetual darkness and silence. Worse still, the occasional drip off a stalactite created an unsettling sound like a shot without notice if it dripped into a pool of water, taking him completely by surprise and fraying his nerves. He also realized that Sammy couldn’t easily follow the string through the darkness, and he wasn’t sure how the two of them would make it out alive if that was to become necessary. Sammy, however, already knew what he’d do if he had to go for help, and would simply follow the scent of their trail back through the cave to the entrance. Luckily, his flashlight switched on again when Jonathan wanted it to, and he decided he could go as far as the first set of batteries and kite string would allow them to, and at that point they had to turn around.
It was only then, that Jonathan asked himself why he hadn’t brought a whole pack of batteries and extra flashlights? What if he dropped his sole flashlight and it rolled over a cliff? What if the light bulb burned out? Why didn’t he have a spare, and could he switch out the spare bulb in complete darkness? He had to admit that he didn’t think he could. And what about Sammy? After all, he was responsible for his adventure companion’s safety, as he made the decision to enter this cave in the first place. He would be responsible if something happened to his best friend. As these thoughts rambled around in his mind, Jonathan decided he couldn’t focus on negative outcomes in the middle of this adventure. He had made his decision, and would have to follow through for better or worse, no matter what – but if it was up to him, they’d complete this adventure with flying colors – because there was no other option…