Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

It was a persistent and unrelenting darkness that Jonathan awoke to, after a less than satisfying sleep on the staircase’s stone treads beside Sammy.  There was no way to know if they’d slept for two hours or two days, as the pitch darkness surrounding them remained endlessly unchanged.  Sammy was already awake and alert, and while not cold, Jonathan felt an uneasy discomfort from having slept while reclining on his backpack against the staircase, with his folded spare sweatshirt as a pillow atop the next higher stone tread.  His joints complained with the stiffness of an old man as he sat up, and began digging into his backpack in the dark to find their last remaining canteen of water for both of them to sip from.  The air was stagnant and clammy in the steeply descending tunnel, begging for the relief of an infusion of fresh oxygenated air.

“Here’s a few treats for you to snack on, Sammy, but we have to save the rest for later.  This is your last treat bag,” explained Jonathan patiently as he ate one of his few remaining chocolate chip cookies.  After a couple of sips of water following their snacks, he packed up the remaining food bags, the canteen, and his sweatshirt to begin descending the staircase into the pitch black depths again.  They were both used to being immersed in the darkness by now, and didn’t  give it a second thought as they carefully probed, scooted and stepped down each descending stair tread.  It was almost second nature by now, and they were no longer afraid of the dark.  Jonathan, however, was becoming more and more concerned about what they would do when their snacks and water ran out though, but it was a dilemma he wasn’t willing to dwell on – at least, not yet.

After what could have been hours, for he had no way of knowing, there was a distinct change in the air within their sandstone enclosure, and the hairs on Jonathan’s neck stood up alerting him to the fact that something wasn’t right.  There was no way of knowing what was causing the foul smell in the air without turning on his flashlight briefly to take a quick look around.  The beam of his flashlight revealed what Jonathan had been looking for all along, a side tunnel to the left of the descending staircase going off in a horizontal direction into the darkness.  This perpendicular corridor in the rock was about the same size in diameter as the tunnel they were in, eight feet or so across, but with a level, smooth floor – while the stone staircase continued down beyond the junction into the unknown depths below.

Jonathan probed the first few feet of this horizontal tunnel, but Sammy refused to enter it, as it was the source of the foul air they had been breathing in recently.  The air quality of this passageway didn’t give him any confidence that it was the best route to follow, so he instead followed Sammy’s lead back to the staircase and turned off his flashlight, as they resumed their descent into the dark void.  It didn’t take very long to realize the staircase’s air was dramatically freshening as they continued descending into the unknown darkness beyond the intersecting passageway, as the source of the bad air all along had been the side corridor.  What was causing the stench in the side tunnel was anyone’s guess, but Jonathan knew they were headed in the right direction at this point based on the better air quality they were now breathing – but where was the staircase leading them to?

It was all he could do to fight off the boredom of endlessly descending this stone staircase in the dark, not knowing how long they’d gone since waking up or how far they still had to go – but to where were they going?  Was their demise inevitable?  Was this simply a torturous exercise without the chance of a positive outcome?  Jonathan couldn’t, and wouldn’t, focus on the nagging doubts hijacking his thoughts, for there must be a solution and way out of their sandstone entrapment.  Wasn’t it Dijia who had told him there was always hope?  All he had now was hope, and as the leader of this expedition it was Jonathan’s task to find a way, any way, to survive this misadventure.  He insisted his mistakes wouldn’t decide their fate, and kept trying to convince himself that there was no reason to give up hope now.

They continued their endless descent into the dark void for longer than he could fathom it – to the point of exhaustion – before stopping for the day.  Or was it night?  Regardless of what time it might be, Jonathan dug into his backpack for another round of treats and cookies, knowing they had just one last round of snacks after sleeping and less than half a canteen of water left.  He adjusted his backpack to get comfortable and refolded his sweatshirt into another makeshift pillow, and leaned back to fall asleep with Sammy resting his muzzle on Jonathan’s stomach again.  He was so used to the darkness by this time, that it was as familiar to him as lying on his bed back on the farm, while looking up at the ceiling and across to the poster of Snoopy fighting the Red Barron on the wall of his room by moonlight.

In the stillness, he could now clearly discern a distant rhythmic sound within the stone tunnel repeating itself every 15 seconds or so, along with a distinct smell of fresh air tinged with salt.  As if expecting to see his bedroom’s ceiling at night from his bed back home, Jonathan focused his eyes above him.  In the darkness he couldn’t see anything of course, but he had the distinct impression that the darkness wasn’t as dark as it had been before.  It was the vague awareness of an initial awakening of daylight long before dawn, in the first moments preceding twilight’s arrival.  Sammy was aware of it as well, remaining wide awake and alert, while sniffing the air and listening intently.  What was causing this combined sensation of a pre-dawn light, the faint repetitive rhythmic sounds within this sandstone prison, and the smell of salt infused fresh air?  For now it didn’t matter, as Jonathan was too tired to think about it anymore, and within minutes fell fast asleep…

(The end of Chapter Two)

Advertisements

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

Once they finished their snacks in the darkness on the stone staircase, Jonathan knew it was now time to keep moving down the stairs.  This was an impossible situation he realized, but as the leader of this adventure, Jonathan knew it was his duty to give them hope and find a way out of this predicament.  There was no way they could just sit here in place, because no one knew where they were – let alone the fact that they were trapped deep underground – even beyond the reach of the cavern system.  The list of their remaining supplies was a very short one, as there was one more bag of treats for Sammy, and Jonathan was now down to a few chocolate chip cookies.  They had one canteen of water left between the two of them, and his flashlight was on its last remaining batteries.  For now, they would have to cautiously move down the stairway in the dark, because he had to conserve the remaining power of the flashlight for the time when they might really need it.

“Sammy, we need to start moving again, and the best way down the stairs I think is to scoot down slowly.  If we stumble and fall down the staircase, we might get really hurt, so we’ll take it slowly.”  With that said, Jonathan slowly scooted down to the next step on his bottom, while feeling the stone treads with his hands and feet in the dark.  The two of them were lashed together with Sammy’s leash, and the arrangement seemed to be working, as Sammy easily made his way down to the next step beside him.  With the knowledge that moving down the staircase in the dark was actually feasible, they continued down in the same manner step after step, deeper into the inky black depths below.

There was no way he could know if there would ever be a way out of this underground labyrinth, but that wasn’t the point in Jonathan’s mind, because they couldn’t just sit there on the stairs waiting to die – that wasn’t an acceptable option.  In his mind, this tunnel of stairs had to lead somewhere, otherwise why had it been made in the first place?  He couldn’t believe that this staircase would descend so far into the ground if there wasn’t an outlet for it to open to, but they couldn’t know if, or what it might be at this point.  They would have to keep moving down the staircase as long as they had the strength to do so, and hope that whoever constructed it had a valid reason for carving it into the sandstone in the first place.  Jonathan would never give up hoping that they would eventually escape this perpetual darkness, for it was their only hope left, that this predicament wouldn’t lead to their demise.

There was no way of knowing what time it was in this endless dark void, but Jonathan knew it had to be at least mid-afternoon in the daylight of Southern Ohio by now.  All they could do at this point, was to keep moving down the dark staircase until they didn’t have any strength remaining.  Scooting down the staircase on his hands, feet and posterior, was hard on his palms against the rough sandstone, so at one point he paused to remove his gloves from his backpack and put them on.  Sammy seemed to have an easier approach at descending the staircase, lagging slightly behind his Master, and cautiously probing each lower stair tread with one paw before committing to moving.

All-in-all, descending into the dark void before them was easier than when Jonathan had first considered it, especially without a railing of some sort to hold onto, as it was virtually impossible to walk down the staircase without stumbling in the darkness.  This process of scooting down the stairs was time consuming though, and the seconds, minutes, and hours ticked away without any understanding of the passing of time.  Finally at one point, he was too tired to continue, and didn’t know if it was the same day or the next, but there was no way of continuing on without rest.  They both shared a sip out of the canteen, and tried to make themselves as comfortable as possible on the stone treads.  Jonathan leaned back into a reclining position against his backpack, and Sammy lay beside him with his muzzle on Jonathan’s stomach, as they both drifted off into an uncertain and troubling sleep…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

As the dust settled following the collapse of the carved doorway, it was evident that there was no turning back now for Jonathan and Sammy.  There had been many smaller chunks of rock that tumbled down the staircase towards them, but miraculously they missed hitting them both.  Most of the collapse turned out to be giant chunks of sandstone from above the doorway, which simply dropped in place without moving or sliding down the stairs.  Had the larger rocks tumbled down the stairway, there was no way the two of them would have survived such an avalanche.

Jonathan surveyed the huge rock pile blocking the entrance to the stairs, and understood at once there was no going back.  Not only was the entrance to the tunnel of stairs completely blocked off, but they couldn’t risk climbing onto the debris and causing a new rock slide.  Everything became clear to him in that moment.  There was no lifeline back to  daylight now.  His flashlight’s batteries would soon die, and he didn’t have any spares.  They were trapped in a descending tunnel of endless stairs into the dark depths below with no hope of rescue, and they had no idea where they were.  A darkness like they had never known before would soon close around them, and descending the steep staircase was difficult enough with the light of the flashlight, but would be all but impossible without it, as their risk of falling and tumbling down the endless stairs approached one hundred percent.

“We’re in big trouble now, Sammy,” began Jonathan, attempting to be brave while addressing their predicament as the leader of this misadventure.  “There’s no going back now, and soon it will be pitch dark in this staircase.  I’ll limit using the flashlight to only once in a while, and for now we’d best eat something and drink a little water in the dark,” explained Jonathan as he turned off the flashlight.  He fumbled through his backpack to find some treats for Sammy, munched the half a sandwich that he had remaining, and they both shared some water out of a canteen.

“We’re still alive, Sammy, so this adventure isn’t over yet, in fact it’s really only beginning the way I see it.  We’ll just have to get used to going down the stairs in the dark,” he said while trying to find Sammy’s leash buried deep in his backpack.  “I’m going to leash us together by tying one end of your leash to my backpack, Sammy.  That way, if one of us stumbles and falls, there’s hope that the other can stop them from tumbling farther down the stairs.  We’re going to make it through this, Sammy, because we have no other option.  We won’t cry or complain, and the only thing we can do now is keep moving down the staircase, and hope we find a way out of this darkness…”

Sammy understood they were in trouble as soon as the doorway collapsed, but now that Jonathan switched off the flashlight, he was on high alert.  While he normally saw pretty well at night, there was nothing visible in the intense darkness of the stairs for his eyes to detect.  Sammy did have an advantage in this situation that Jonathan didn’t have though, as his ears were extremely sensitive to faint sounds, and he could pick up and feel vibrations through his paws.  He was barely able to perceive a repetitive, rhythmic pattern from what seemed to be a great distance away, and his nose detected a strong odor of salt and humidity.  While he wasn’t aware of what it could be, perhaps what he was detecting was a salt mine somewhere within this mountain of rock.  There was no way of knowing though, and worse yet, there was probably no way of finding out…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Seven

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

As Jonathan began to turn around to return to the end of his kite string, his flashlight dipped and in its illumination he saw why the carved sandstone door frame was made – it marked the beginning of a very steep staircase going down, down, down into the pitch darkness!  ‘What a find!’ thought Jonathan, and again, he couldn’t resist the urge to explore it farther.  He knew he was on his last flashlight batteries and about thirty feet or so away from the end of his kite string – his lifeline out of the caverns – but couldn’t resist the opportunity to enter the staircase.  At this point, his rational self was dormant, and his adventurous self was doing all the thinking, if you could call it that.

He took his first step through the carved doorway, and stepped down onto the first of the stone treads.  Jonathan immediately realized that this was a very steep staircase indeed, easily 45 degrees or steeper.  He pointed his flashlight down into the depths of the staircase, only to see continuous stone treads descending into the void.  He realized he had to be very careful on the staircase, because if he tripped, there would be nothing to prevent him from tumbling down, down, down.  There was no railing to take hold of, just the smooth stone walls of a steeply descending tunnel that contained the staircase.

After descending about fifty individual steps down the staircase, Jonathan turned to find Sammy waiting at the top of the stairs.  His adventure companion was smarter than he was in that moment, not wanting to venture down the staircase or enter the steep tunnel.  “It’s okay, Sammy, follow me and we’ll check this staircase out a little ways.  There has to be something to see down here,” called Jonathan.  While clearly hesitant to enter the staircase, Sammy knew his Master wanted him so he slowly descended the stairs, while being very selective of where he placed his paws on the steep treads.  It took a couple of minutes, but finally Sammy caught up to Jonathan, and then they continued down the steep staircase together.

Jonathan’s intention was to just make it down to the next level, and return to the caverns once they knew what that level held.  It was all too much of a grand adventure for Jonathan to think clearly, but deep inside his rational sense was trying to regain control.  He realized he was running very low on battery power, and tried to recall the route out of the cavern system if his flashlight failed.  He already resigned himself to have to follow the string at least partially back to the cave’s entrance, and the little hairs were anxiously standing up on the back of his neck.  He had to quickly discover what the next level held, and then return at once to his lifeline!

However, that’s not how it was working out, and Jonathan began getting very nervous.  He thought that a second level existed – but there were only endless stairs leading ever further into the black depths in front of them.  The staircase remained at the same steep angle, making it difficult to keep his balance while descending.  He had to use his left hand to feel along the smooth stone wall for support, and take the stairs slowly and deliberately.  Sammy didn’t find the going any easier, and had to take his time in choosing the right paw placement to carefully make his way down beside Jonathan.

It was looking more and more likely that there wasn’t a second level at all, just this endless dark staircase that seemed to be taking them to the center of the earth!  Jonathan felt the first signs of panic setting in, and realized that this wasn’t a good situation to be in, not a good situation at all.  Just then, there was an extremely loud ‘crack’ behind them – and the carved doorway collapsed into a great pile of rocks, completely blocking the way back into the caverns…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Six

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan had to work quickly at this point, because he was already using his only good batteries remaining to power his flashlight.  He gave the skeleton a miss, and instead continued playing out his kite string down the middle of the chamber until it ran out.  He still hadn’t reached the end of the chamber yet, so he began lining up rocks in a straight line from the end of the kite string, pointing the way back to his lifeline if his flashlight were to die.  He swept the remaining portion of the chamber with the flashlight’s beam, trying to determine if there was anything else of interest in the chamber, before returning to the gold and silver coins and heading out of the caves.

He just couldn’t make that final decision to turn around though, and continued  lining up rocks while going the opposite direction from where the entrance into the cavern system was located.  Sammy seemed to have discovered something, and went farther ahead into the darkness of the unexplored portion of the chamber.  Jonathan tracked him with the beam of his flashlight, and was just about to call him back, when the narrow beam of light reflected something of unusual interest back towards him.  There at the very edge of his flashlight’s range, was what looked like carving in the sandstone wall of the cave!  It was unrecognizable from this distance, but it had all the marks of something carved by humans!

Despite the dwindling power of his flashlight’s batteries, Jonathan couldn’t resist taking a look.  He lined up a couple of more rocks before going over to what had appeared to him as a carving, all the while digging a channel in the dirt with his heel.  If nothing else, he would be able to feel for the depression in the dirt to make his way back to where the rocks lined up towards the end of the kite string – but his mind wasn’t focused on that at the moment.  He wanted to know if this carving helped explain the skeleton they had stumbled upon, and the treasure chest of gold and silver coins.

As he approached the carving in the sandstone rock of the cavern, his flashlight was able to take in the entire area, which explained what the carved sandstone actually was – a door frame!  His flashlight illuminated a carved door frame of about ten feet in height, with individual stones stacked like pillars up the side of a dark opening, with a number of smaller stones creating an arch and keystone over the doorway!  This was a carved door frame made by humans to reach something on the other side, but there wasn’t a door, just pitch darkness where an actual door would have been.  What was this doorway for, and where did it lead?  These questions were simply too tempting and exciting for Jonathan to not at least take a peek through it!

Once he arrived at the carved door frame itself, he ran his hands down the chiseled sandstone feeling the fine details created by a master carver from ages ago.  ‘Why had he made this door frame?’ he wondered, and shined his flashlight directly into the black void of the opening.  At first, he couldn’t make anything out, but eventually his eyes adjusted to make out more sandstone in the distance at what was a level position to his eyes.  He moved his flashlight up, to the right and then to the left, but saw nothing except more sandstone.  As he was about to turn around, he dipped his flashlight lower towards the ground – and then he saw it!

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Five

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan and Sammy started out across the cavern again, letting out the kite string behind them as they continued down the path between stalactites and stalagmites for another thirty feet of so, until they reached another narrow tunnel section within the underground chambers.  This one was only about eighteen inches wide, but as tall as a man.  Jonathan mentally added the distance to their previous total, and figured they’d traveled about 410 feet so far into the cavern system, and confirmed his guesstimate based on the amount of kite string remaining on the spool.  It was slow going within this narrow passageway, but such an adventure that Jonathan was very pleased with himself for making it this far.  Both of them were small enough to easily walk through the corridor within walls of rock, and it was only about twenty more feet or so until they reached yet another cavern.

This chamber was a long room with a reasonably high ceiling of about fifteen feet Jonathan guessed, and about twice as wide, but longer than his flashlight had the power to illuminate.  The stalactites and stalagmites were now gone, and the humidity wasn’t nearly as high in this chamber, but the stagnant air seemed to be fresher with the faint smell of salt.  The cliff drop-offs and deep pools of water were now replaced with a rather level dirt floor, and other than the fact that he calculated they must now be 430 feet underground, it wasn’t such a bad place to be in.  The chamber would have made a good hideaway, Jonathan thought, as it was plenty big enough and lacked any of the obvious pitfalls that could endanger their lives.

Sammy was able to walk free from his Master’s side now, and made his way directly into the shadows off to the left, where something seemed to have captured his attention.  At first, Jonathan thought he should call Sammy back to him, but then decided it would be better to check out what he’d found, and shined his flashlight directly in front of what his adventure companion was checking out.  It seemed that Sammy had found an old wooden chest, which was badly deteriorated and covered in dust.  The metal corners, hinges, clasp and lock were badly rusted from the damp air, and it looked like it had been there for ages upon ages.  The wood had rotted and splintered, and Jonathan thought it would fall to pieces into sawdust and splinters if he touched it.

Of course he couldn’t resist, and tried to raise the chest’s hinged top, but the lid wouldn’t budge.  The lock still held the clasp firmly in place, but once Jonathan grabbed and pulled on the lock, the entire clasp and lock broke away from the chest in one solid piece.  Once he lifted the lid, it fell back and broke into so many individual splintered boards, revealing a treasure of gold and silver coins lying in yet another box!  “This treasure must be worth a fortune!” exclaimed Jonathan to Sammy, as his voice echoed off the walls of the chamber around him.  He grabbed one of the gold pieces and looked it over in his hand, first one side and then the other.  The inscription puzzled him, as it was from no place he had ever heard of before – the Kingdom of Arwyall.  ‘Where the heck is that?’ thought Jonathan to himself.  He decided to slip the gold coin into his pocket, and filled one of the side pockets of his backpack with gold and silver coins, making sure to remember to grab the rest as they made their way back out of the cave.

It was then that he noticed Sammy had gone on to investigate something in another shadow farther down the chamber, and made his way to investigate what new treasure he had discovered.  Once he shined his flashlight on what Sammy was investigating, Jonathan realized he wasn’t eager to see it.  Bleached white bones of a human skeleton were easily recognizable to him, even from yards away.  Once he walked over to where Sammy was sniffing around the human remains, it was evident that the person died around the time the chest of gold and silver had been brought into this cave, as it seemed to have lain undisturbed for ages as well.  The clothing the person wore had mostly disintegrated over that period of time, and all that was recognizable beyond the bleached bones, were some ancient leather pieces, a few old bronze tools, and a rusted metal sword that was no good to anyone.

The entire scene gave Jonathan reason to pause and consider their own situation, as they were now some 480 feet into the cavern system, and he could see that little was left of his kite string on the spool.  This would be their last chamber to explore he decided, even as his flashlight flickered again and went out.  The pitch darkness was immediately disturbing to him, knowing that he shared it with the remains of another explorer or perhaps even a pirate, along with the treasure trove he undoubtedly brought into the cave.  But why here?  Why did he haul such a heavy chest of gold and silver coins almost 500 feet into this cavern system only to choose this cave – or was there another entrance into this underground system of caves, passageways and chambers that Jonathan didn’t know about?

As he sat there in the dirt swapping out his only two spare D-cell batteries, he hoped his flashlight would power up again – and it did!  The fact that he was now on his spare batteries and at the end of his kite string, told Jonathan they had no choice but to turn around and make their way back to the land of sunshine – but first, he needed one last look around the chamber before securing the remaining coins in his backpack and leaving…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Four

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…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Three

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

The cave’s initial passageway widened in front of Jonathan, and once he arrived at the expansive broadening of the corridor, he wasn’t initially prepared for what he discovered.  The tight confines of the entrance tunnel gave way to what seemed to be an enormous underground chamber – enormous because his flashlight couldn’t illuminate either the far side, nor the bottom – however, the roof of the chamber stayed at about the same height as the tunnel he had been crawling through.  He also discovered millions of black bats lived in this cave, hanging from the ceiling of the cavern in such numbers that he only saw a sea of hanging bats, and fortunately, they didn’t seem to take any interest in him.

Jonathan didn’t expect such an underground cavern to open up before him, and thought about his initial assessment of water flowing out of the underground cave, knowing at this point that it was virtually impossible.  He now surmised that water during the rainy season must have flown ‘into’ the cavern from the gully when it flooded.  Part of him knew that at this point he should back out of the passageway, and notify scientists that he had discovered a huge underground cavern system, but the other half of him was too tempted to explore his discovery further.  His adventurous self overrode his rational self, and instead, he examined the cliff edge of this great cavern with his flashlight to see if there was a way down.

After a time investigating the cliff before him, he realized there was a narrow ledge off to the right, that seemed to create sort of a path downwards into the darkness.  The problem was, his flashlight could only illuminate for about thirty feet, before being overcome by the intense darkness.  He decided the only way to truly know if this pathway led anywhere, was to travel down it.  After instructing Sammy to wait at the cliff’s edge, Jonathan edged down the ledge on his hands and knees, being careful to spool out the kite string behind him without breaking it.  The ledge broadened after about the first twenty feet or so to about four feet wide, and he felt comfortable enough to stand up at this point, and called for Sammy to follow him.  Sammy had no problem with balance issues on the narrow portion of the ledge, and easily caught up with his Master.

Pausing to investigate the cavern with his flashlight for a second time, Jonathan discovered the underground canyon wasn’t bottomless after all, as he could now barely see the bottom of the cave with his flashlight.  They continued down the widening ledge for another five minutes or so, until reaching what was the smooth floor of the cavern.  He could see a number of bones from animals who had somehow wandered into the cavern and never found their way back, which gave him pause for reflection.  He knew he still had his string to guide him back out in an emergency, and concentrated on memorizing the route they’d taken up to that point if a problem occurred.  He also realized he’d better not drop his flashlight into the darkness, and wish he’d tied it securely with a line to his backpack.  The excitement of discovery was too great a draw on him, however, and at that point he had no inclination of turning back – not with such a grand discovery just waiting to be explored!

This chamber turned out to be perhaps one hundred feet long and fifty foot deep, with an unknown width.  At the end of the cavern, there was yet another narrow portion, like a hallway of sorts about five feet wide.  This passageway continued into a second chamber yielding stalactites and stalagmites in a very damp room.  The humidity was thick and clammy in this cavern that continued to descend in a patchwork of separate pathways and cliff faces.  Jonathan checked his string to ensure it was trailing properly behind them, and tried to commit this latest route to memory as well.  He knew it would be difficult to avoid stumbling off blind cliffs in complete darkness, but rationalized that he could crawl back on his hands and knees if necessary, while carefully following the string if it came to that.  Sammy hesitated at this point to go any farther, and spent more and more time looking back over his shoulder…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Two

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning, Jonathan and Sammy made their way back towards the small entrance of the cave they had discovered the day before, but this time they came prepared as explorers.  Jonathan had his backpack loaded with lunch, snacks, dog treats for Sammy, and extra water bottles.  He also had his compass, flashlight with new batteries and spares, a section of rope, a pair of gloves, an extra hooded sweatshirt, his pocket knife, and a spool of kite string that was 500 feet long.  He knew enough to know that spelunking could be a dangerous business, and wanted to be as prepared as possible – however, his mother only knew they were heading out to explore the wood beyond the wheat field again.  He decided that telling her about exploring a cave might just be a tad too much information, which was sure to get her worried, and might even put an end to his adventuring for a while.  Of course Jonathan would be careful, he was an experienced adventurer after all!

Jonathan tied the loose end of his spool of kite string to the base of a very sturdy bush just outside the entrance to the cave, and tested it a few times to ensure it wouldn’t come loose.  He then got down on his hands and knees, and carefully made his way into the narrow and tight opening of the cave, while holding his flashlight in one hand and the the spool of kite string in the other.  It was a juggling act that took some practiced coordination, and he had to be careful to not accidentally snag and snap the string on a rock, or break the thin kite string by kneeling on it and pulling at the same time.  Sammy was anxious to pass him in the narrow tunnel-like corridor, but Jonathan wanted to make sure it would be safe for his adventure companion before letting his dog take the lead.  After all, they were perhaps the first explorers ever to enter this cave – anything could be in it…

It was possible that this cave could very well be the fox’s den, and who knows if the fox and its entire clan were home in that moment?  Jonathan continued inching his way through what continued to be a very narrow channel, as if during the spring there was a great flood of water that poured through this corridor.  The idea set him aback for a moment, until rationalizing that this was the peak of summer and not the rainy season in Southern Ohio.  He was sure the passageway would stay high and dry, at least for now.  The spool slowly played out the thin kite string as Jonathan continued on his hands and knees, happy to find a soft layer of sand beneath his knees for the first twenty feet he’d already crawled.  The rest of the tunnel was soft rock like sandstone, and it was clear that water had carved this passageway over time, when ages ago it had probably started out as a thin crack.

Ideas were never a problem for Jonathan, for his mind was always full of them, and easily conjured up new ones whenever a mystery like this cave needed explanation.  He was proud of his ability to figure things out easily, and was so confident of his deductions that he rarely took the time to explore alternatives to his initial assessments.  While he was aware that his first thoughts weren’t always the right ones, it rarely gave him pause enough to consider alternatives prior to committing himself to action based on his initial reasoning.  However, the deeper he crawled into the cave, the more he was sure of his actions at the moment.  There wasn’t any evidence of a fox’s den so far, and the tunnel continued as far ahead of him as his flashlight had power to illuminate the corridor.

After another fifty feet or so of crawling, while slowly letting out the kite string behind him and examining the way ahead with his flashlight, he finally saw evidence of the passageway widening in front of him.  He checked his compass, and saw the tunnel was leading him towards the east, or roughly the direction towards Stoney Creek beyond the corn field.  Sammy was still wanting to run ahead of him, but instead patiently listened to Jonathan’s commands to stay behind him.  Sammy had a keen awareness of knowing what his Master wanted him to do, and was happy to wait until he was given the freedom to explore on his own, like he always did when chasing fleeting scents of rabbits and squirrels during their hikes.  Adventuring was in Sammy’s blood just as much as it was in Jonathan’s, and more often than not, Sammy was the reasonable one willing to pause when things didn’t seem quite right.  His Master, on the other hand, lived by the adventurer’s motto: once he made a decision, he rarely changed his mind – because adventurers couldn’t be all wishy-washy, and needed to be able to make decisions and stick with them…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Two, Part One – Unexpected Discoveries

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Two, Part One – Unexpected Discoveries

~~~~~~~~~~

“Often overlooked and ignored, unexpected discoveries offer us unique opportunities to delve deeper into life’s mysteries.  For it is in these wondrous discoveries, that serendipity can and often does catch us unawares.  She offers us the possibility of pursuing new avenues, pathways and journeys that only moments before, didn’t seemingly exist ~ forever changing, our lives…” – Mark D. Jones

~~~~~~~~~~

Summer vacation was soon coming to a close, as Jonathan only had a couple of short weeks left before third grade started.  He was sad to see his grandfather depart that morning, but it was with happiness and joy that everyone said goodbye.  The understanding looks from the night before had led to a mending of fences within their family, as Jonathan’s father for the first time finally saw his father as he truly was, and not at all in the way he had imagined him to be his entire life.  The two of them talked late into the evening after dinner, joined later by Julia, and for the first time everyone really enjoyed each other’s company.  It was a happy moment in the life of the Spencer Family and the Spencer Family Farm, and Jonathan felt as if a great weight had lifted – not only from their family, but from his pursuit of adventuring as well.

After breakfast, Jonathan told his mother he would go for a hike with Sammy beyond the wheat field into the wood, and not only did his mother not protest and require he spend his morning doing chores around the farm, but she packed him lunch, and a variety of snacks and water for his outing – along with treats for Sammy.  After rounding Sammy up from chasing rabbits over by the soybean field, the two adventurers were on their way following the same path they traveled the day before with Gramps.  They paused long enough to enjoy a couple of snacks on the same fallen log they had lunched on yesterday, before continuing their trek towards the large egg-shaped boulder in the clearing.  It was there that Jonathan recalled Gramps’ process of traveling to the far side of his imagination to travel beyond space and time – focus your thoughts, enter your zone, free your thoughts to float, imagine them swirling around your mind, invite them to float free beyond your mind, and then release your consciousness or awareness to follow them – simple.

Jonathan thought about the process Gramps described, but first had other intentions for the morning.  He had seen a small gully through the trees beyond the bolder yesterday, and wanted to investigate it further and explore where it led.  This is what Jonathan loved about adventuring.  He knew there would always be unexpected discoveries found in places he’d never traveled to in the past, and often even familiar territory yielded new things he hadn’t seen before during their prior trips.  He imagined the gully formed the beginnings of a small stream, and wanted to investigate how far they would have to follow it in order to find running water.  Jonathan always had ideas, and once an idea formed in his mind he felt it had to be investigated – after all, that’s what any good explorer would do, right?

After he and Sammy had gone perhaps a hundred yards or so through thickets and brambles without finding a stream, he was about to turn back when he saw a small shadow behind some bushes.  There was a small rock face there where the gully started to deepen, as if over time erosion had uncovered the rocks.  Curious as to what the shadow might be, he fought his way through a number of brambles until discovering what caused the shadow to form.  Jonathan discovered it wasn’t a shadow at all, but a small opening like a crack between rocks, that widened at its base to a couple of feet high and wide.  He got down on his hands and knees and looked into the opening, wondering if he had finally discovered the fox’s den!

Sammy was eager to enter the den, but Jonathan held him back.  His impression was that it was a small cave, and very deep inside.  Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see only about ten feet into the darkness, telling Sammy, “This looks like a cave.  We didn’t bring a flashlight, so I don’t want us to go into it today, but we’ll explore it on tomorrow’s hike.  I read in one of my books that cave explorers are called ‘spelunkers.’  In order to do this right, I need to bring my kite string with us so I can tie one end of the string to this bush here, to make a trail back out of the cave if the flashlight’s batteries run out of juice.  Let’s go home now, and plan to explore the cave tomorrow.”

Jonathan was proud of his restraint in not going into the cave that morning.  He realized that exploring caves could be very dangerous business, and wanted to do it safely.  Gramps would be proud of him he thought, in trying to approach adventuring from a grownup and responsible way.  As they returned to the farmhouse for a second lunch, he didn’t want to alarm his mother about his plans for the next morning though, and decided to keep their plan for exploring the cave just between the two of them…