St.Solen-Part Three of Four.

As he thrashed around in the pitch blackness, the shock of the cold water thumped home. Arms flailing, Tomas screamed out all of his air, and in dismay realised he was totally disoriented. Already seeing bright dots before his eyes, he fought to control the panic. He could see absolutely nothing, and felt almost weightless in the water. Still lashing around with his hands, he felt his fingers brush the smooth surface of his headtorch. Headtorch. Thumping his forehead in his panic, he slid the switch and a wide, yellow arc shot upwards. Then he knew he was in trouble, as he watched small bubbles falling past and below him, going the wrong way. In a mad confusion he suddenly  thought about avalanches, and with a stab of joy lashed his body around. I’m upside down.

He swam towards the spiralling bubbles, lungs burning and ears roaring in their need for air. Just before he passed out, he glimpsed a shimmering puddle above him. Clawing towards it, Tomas thrust his head in to wonderful cold, earthy air. Nothing  had ever tasted so good. He gasped and panted, coughing up a lot of water and phlegm, which immediately flowed away. He had surfaced in a small chamber, barely big enough to stand in, had he been able to. He luxuriated in the clean air, and burst in to tears, violent sobs racking his body. The eerie echoes in the confined space made him stop as quickly as he had begun. He calmed his mind, thinking about the man. What a psycho! Who the hell encourages small boys to go down wells? His brain was lucid enough to rapidly insert the word ‘stupid’ before boys. Feeling suddenly embarrassed, he remembered that he had puked, and that it had gone. There must be a current downhere.e Then he saw the slime-coated grey rope, taut to the rock in front of him, plunging down and away in to darkness.

Suddenly  aware of treading water, he felt his legs being swept toward the rope. The current was driving him forward with some force, and the air felt suddenly hot and acrid. In horror, he realised that he had no choice than to follow the flow before his air ran out. Thanking God he had been given the waterproof torch, he took a huge gulp of air, grabbed the grimy rope, ducked and launched himself forward. The water picked up its pace instantly, and Tomas felt his fingers gliding along the rope. He was in a narrow tunnel, heading downwards. Striking his head on the roof, his lamp snapped off and he was plunged in to darkness a second time. Gritting his teeth against the urge to scream again, he gripped the rope tightly. His legs felt pulled and lifted forward, with more and more momentum. Inching along the rope gave him confidence. He took larger and larger spans of it in his hands, and pulled away. It was almost like tobogganing, except not fun. At all. And in pitch black. Amused at his thoughts, he took tugged sharply at the rope, and all at once it slackened. Completely.

Now he really did scream. His feet carried on, tangling with the frayed fibres around him. As the current turned his body, again he had no sense of  orientation, and the panic slammed in to him. The bright dots were larger than last time, and with them came an awful heaviness that he knew was not good. His feet then felt cold. Very cold, and all he could think about was his parents not knowing where he was. Ever. In the growing fog of his vision, he was aware of his legs growing cold too, and reaching forward felt a joy like he has never experienced before. His hand felt silkily cold. AIR! Reaching forward and feeling around, he grasped at a hold and pulled. Breaking the surface, he lunged upwards, striking his head a second time, and blinding himself with his now working lamp. With the last of his strength he dragged his body up and on to a ledge in front of him slumping, utterly spent, against a slimy rock wall.

Glancing around, the torchbeam picked out a wide high cavern, reaching up to a smooth, circular roof. It looked man made, so smooth was the surface. The air felt better, and encouraged by this he pulled himself further upright, knocking a round rock loose as he did so. It struck his chest and came to rest in his lap. Tomas reached down to throw it in to the water, and his fingers met a sharp, heart-shaped hole. Curious, he looked down and saw two eyeless sockets staring up at him. A bleached skull, without a jawbone, and in disgust he wrenched his fingers free of the nose cavity, slashing them open as he did so. The skull rolled way, coming to rest against a little leather shoe, with a slender legbone jutting out of it. He could not move or breathe or think. Only stare. This was a dark and evil dread that he had never, ever imagined could exist. Everything turned in to blackness.

 

© Tom Tide 2016

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