The Night Watch
(An Ongoing Saga by Steven R. Harrel)
(Taken from concepts found in “This Side of the Whirlwind”)
(The Terminal Tomb continues)
“Well,” Carl said, “What are we waiting for? No sense crying over a little spilled Cave-Milk, right guys?”
11:15 a.m. April 6th 2016
Brian’s excitement was contagious. He Bent down and cautiously examined the half meter opening. Confidently, Brian claimed the passage extended beyond his lamplight and loudly demanded that we should just “Go for it”.
Carl however was still a little put-off. As much as he wanted to continue exploring the cave, he still felt despondent over breaking the rock-formation; this moment however, was the moment Brian decided to cheer-up our ole’ buddy, Carl T.
Brian pulled out Carl’s standard and much worn-out cave-joke, “Hey Carl, I can see really far into this crawl; any idea where this passage might go?”
Because his mind was still reeling from the crash, Carl failed to catch his own silly pun; thus, Carl fell for it – hook – line – and nasty ole cave mud stinker. Carl reacted, “I don’t know Brian… where does it go?”
Carl was suddenly aware of what Brian was doing; still, it was too late for his pride and way too late to fain playing along; Carl groaned.
Brian scoffed loudly just before the three of us, in unison leaned into Carl’s dusty, old and terrible punchline, “It doesn’t go anywhere Carl, it stays right there the whole dad-gum time!”
It mattered not how stupid we thought Carl’s tired joke to be, this time we were all busting a gut as Carl blanched in defeat; which his eyes reflected. This was the overused joke we’d all fallen for at some point and wearily heard Carl repeat dozens of times. Still, somehow this time, with the joke on Carl “it” really was funny!
Carl simply smirked before baulking, “Ha, haw guys, real funny; never heard that one before.” Laughter erupted again as we watched how not-amused Carl was with our antagonism. “Cruel friends you are! Just cruel, cruel friends, JERKS!” Carl feigned great distress.
After a few moments the laughter subsided, TS mentioned the steady flow of air streaming through the crawl. “Hey guys, there’s a solid breeze blowing through this crawl. Wherever it goes, no pun intended, this crawl likely leads to another sizable living section of the cave. Should be some additional crawls. Let’s hit it!”
We all agreed and then insisted Carl take the lead.
“It’s fitting Bubba, go for it.” Mike pointed towards the squeeze.
Brian piped up, “We should name this new crawl, “Carl’s Blunder”.
Everyone, save Carl, was quickly on board. To Carl’s everlasting irritation, “Carl’s Blunder” was born!
Within minutes, we were all slithering on our bellies like reptiles and shifting from one side of the crawl to the other. Though sometimes a tight fit and at several points a squeeze… everyone was able to navigate the crawl until finally making that sharp turn at the far end where we had to slithered around a significantly large smooth stalagmite.
Even as a small crawl “Carl’s Blunder” sported some beautiful aragonite clusters, and a few tiny bacon-strip with crystalline rosebuds polishing off the distant ends. Most of the rock-formations were tucked neatly into to tiny alcoves or clefts. Each of us carefully made our way past these beauties so as not to damage further rock-formations; especially, the petite aragonite formations and delicate soda-straws.
As TS exited the far side of the crawl he realized markers had not been left to indicate the new passage. If anyone had to come looking for them, for any reason, there wouldn’t be a marker to indicate the new crawl.
TS spoke up, “Hey guys, did anyone think to leave a marker by the entrance of Carl’s Blunder?”
Each looked to the others but all answered in silence. Carl just shook his head deciding to let it go.
TS shrugged and headed deeper into the cave’s forever night, “Oh well”.
Brian spoke up suggesting someone go back and leave a marker; mistakenly, even he was not committed to the prospect. Ultimately, no one was willing to return through Carl’s Blunder, leastwise, not until they had explored a good portion of this new section of cave. Everyone wanted to be one of the first to experience virgin ground.
And it was amazing!
There were numerous new chambers and passages flowing throughout the cave. One passage provided a beautiful miniature amphitheater off to one side, a chamber particularly receptive to our sing-song spelunking habits. I don’t know if beautiful would be the right word for it… but our descants crooned from chamber to chamber.
Nearly an hour had now passed since we’d traversed Carl’s Blunder. Like kids at play we were crawling and climbing and hiking through unfamiliar pristine passageways. Brian and Mike shimmying up a few ascents or TS chimneying down one descent or another; eventually, we all met up in a large breakdown room and universally gawked at the enormous climb before us.
Tragically, it was too late to go back, we were hooked. We were all enamored with this new and beautiful section of cave; we were having too much fun.
Blinded by our desire to explore the unknown; blinded for want of being the first to plant our feet in the cave’s unmarked soil; we were wholly and completely ensnared.
The Breakdown Room as we came to call it, was a room filled with large to giant boulders of shale and rock and sand. The climb was made more precarious by loose and unstable materials which were once located in the dark recesses of the cave’s upper reaches. Each of us now stood gawking at the nearly vertical 100 to 130 foot climb consisting utterly of breakdown. Some of the boulders were as large as old style Chevy Suburbans with many of those behemoths sitting dangerously atop other sizable boulders and yet others sitting precariously atop yet another perilously placed Goliath. And yet, foolishly, we climbed.
Mike, of course, being the group’s premier climber, took the lead and seemed to spring up the breakdown mountain. TS fell ponderously in behind Mike and Brian while Carl remained at the bottom watching and waiting for everyone to reach the summit. We, the trio thus set to the task of ascending the treacherous hill and continued in said task until everyone heard THE SOUND! It was an unforgettable grinding of stone upon stone. A sound where tiny crystalline beauties provided lubrication and gravity the impetus.
Everyone froze! Everyone listened!
Mike was only a meter or so from the top as he bounded and finished the ascent.
“No harm, no foul” Carl thought.
Unfortunately, the sound continued and seemed to be coming from the boulder upon which TS was standing.
TS hadn’t done anything odd; rather, he’d merely climbed about half way up the breakdown mountain and stepped in the center of a large boulder. Potentially disastrously, Brian was positioned directly beneath TS’ shifting position.
The boulder upon which Brian stood was located some 40 feet up from the breakdown floor below. His position provided little to no place for escape. Brian couldn’t go to the left due to the slick cave wall; nor could he jump to the right less he could fly. Brian was boxed in and 40 feet above the jagged rocks and boulders below. Alternately, Brian could not climb straight up for straight up toppled a giant sliding three ton boulder and below was nothing but a forty foot drop onto jagged boulders and death.
There was nothing to be done. TS suddenly decided to leap towards the next series of boulders hoping his actions would take the offending weight off of the traveling boulder. No change! The boulder continued its descent.
“I’m so sorry, Brian,” TS shouted.
Brian reacted a bit vitriolically, “I’m not real happy about this either, TS.”
“Who could have known?” TS thought. The boulder where TS stood just moments before, the one Mike also used to ascend was sliding more quickly now, moving towards the edge and Brian position below. The grinding sands seemed so loud and intense as the boulder edged towards Brian. TS attempted to cram rock wedges and pieces of stone in the boulder’s path, anything to try and stop the huge stone from crushing his friend. Nothing worked.
Once again, TS cried out, “I’m so sorry Brian. I don’t know how to stop it! It’s too big, too heavy!”
Brian’s eyes filled with fear as the enormous chunk of limestone began to teeter over the other boulder’s edge.
We all watched in horror as Brian searched for somewhere, anywhere to jump. There just wasn’t any safer place to go!
What seemed like minutes only took a few seconds. Just when it seemed like the boulder would careen over the edge, topple the grinding rocks and crush poor Brian to death, the gargantuan boulder suddenly stopped. Amazingly, the boulder wedged itself between two of the massive boulders on either side; and while only the tips of the huge boulder caught on the redeeming stones, the car sized boulder was stopped and that only moments, millimeters from Brian head.
TS let out an exclamation of joy, “Thank you Lord, thank You!”
Carl stood at the bottom with his eyes as wide as we’d ever seen them.
Though you might think the boulder incident would be enough to dissuade or slow our little explorations, it was not.
Once everyone had summited the Breakdown Room we sat together and decided to go on. During that short break at the top of the heap, we took our time, turned off our headlamps and discussed the close call we’d all witnessed. It wasn’t long before we were talking about our various and sundry lives, lives of adventures trials and faith.
Then following an extended and dark silence Brian piped up, “Hey TS, Carl said you just launched your new book. That’s too cool, man! What’s it called?”
“Carl’s right, I did just send off my transcript. I sent off the final revision just two days ago, April 4th 2016.”
“Wow Bubba, you’re a published author now, that’s fantastic!” Mike chimed in.
Brian’s voice rang out in the darkness, “So what’s it called?”
It’s going to be called, “This Side of the Whirlwind, The Coming Apocalypse.”
“I saw the cover,” Carl said, “TS’ daughter did the artwork. Very impressive.”
“Yeah, I’ve read bits and pieces of TS’ book.” Mike said, “It seems really good, but you better bring your ‘A’ game if you want to read it. I’ve got a PhD in Theology and I still had to look up a few scripture references.”
Carl cut in, “You should read his Kirkus Indie Book Review.” “They didn’t cut his book any slack but they also touted it as a real and interesting piece of literature. I remember the last line of the review.” It says, something like: ‘ But the research and cleareyed exegesis in these pages should fascinate all students of end times lore.’”
Brian adds, “Woe, sounds like pretty high praise to me!”
“I liked it,” TS said.
“Hey, let’s get going guys,” Brian groaned.
(Watch for the continuing Saga!)