7. The depths
With every step comes new tears, but slowly, carefully, we make progress. We’ve been through multiple tunnels but still nothing promising. Just more caves. I have to get Thalia out of here, I have to. My eyes burn with tears but I don’t let it show. I’m tired of just bursting into tears when things get tough. Not anymore. I have to be strong. For my Sister.
I don’t know how much more of this she can take. We clamber through another tunnel. I’m desperately hoping for Thalia’s sake that this one will lead us to the safety above. Another cave. Except this one is different. It has a ladder at the corner and no muddy puddles. Thalia and I stand there for a moment looking at. The ladder isn’t going up. It’s going down.
I don’t know what to think of it. I have to get her up, to safety. But if there’s a ladder here, there might be a way out. I look at Thalia and I see she has the same look on her face. She knows it’s our best shot to get out, but she can’t make it down with her leg. “Come on.“ I say though I know she can’t. “I’ll help you.“ She shook her head. Her matted black hair bouncing side to side. “I can’t do it.“ She says. We would have to turn back. That isn’t an option. We’ve been searching too long. It’s night now and we are in desperate need of sleep. We could spend the night here, it looks pretty dry. But we don’t have any water, or food. And the wound on Thalia’s leg isn’t getting any better. This ladder is our only hope. “Okay.“ I say, “So what do we do?“ She asks. “I’m gonna go down“ I say, pointing to the ladder. “I’ll scope things out, see if there really is a way out from there. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a rope of something to help you down.“ She nods slightly, considering this. “Okay,“ She says finally. “I’ll wait here.“ I nod and grab the top rung of the ladder. I start to climb down when Thalia stops me. “Wait!“ She says. “Before I left I grabbed this from school.“ She tells me, handing me what looks to be a flashlight. “It might be dark down there.“ She explains. I nod and gratefully grab the light. My attention returns to the ladder and I continue my climb. I take great care with each step, as there’s no knowing how old this thing is. Soon I’m at the bottom and I jump into a puddle making a hollow splashing sound. I shine the flashlight around. I’m in a small dar room. Nothing promising. Why would anyone build a ladder into just another cave? I think this over for a minute. Then something occurred to me. What if the person who built it only wanted it to look like another regular cave. So I start scanning the room more closely. It seems pretty normal. I sigh and slump against the wall. Frustrated. But all that evaporates into confusion in a second. The wall behind me is… moving? I jump back. A whole section of the wall is retracting into itself. I stand there for a moment watching it isn’t moving anymore. After taking a closer look at the wall, it hadn’t retracted into itself, only gone behind another section. Cautiously I wander up to the gap. Making the same hollow splashing sound with each footfall. Well. Guess it’s more than just an ordinary cave. I start to walk into the newly opened passage. But stop myself. I might not be able to get back to Thalia. I think. But then I remind myself that I have no choice. I take one more cautious look at the opening, and walk through.