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 is where Brian decided to cheer-up our ole’ buddy Carl T.
Brian quickly pulled out Carl’s old caving standby of a joke saying, “Hey Carl, I can see really far into this passage; any idea where this passage might go?”
Because his mind was still reeling, Carl didn’t catch his own joke tossed in his face; thus, he fell for it – hook – line and nasty ole cave mud stinker. Carl reacted, “I don’t know Brian, where’s it go?”
It was too late for Carl’s pride, we all heard him groan.
Brian scoffed loudly just before the three of us enjoined in unison Carl’s dusty – old – and silly punchline, “It doesn’t go anywhere Carl, it stays right there the whole time!”
It mattered not how stupid we thought Carl’s joke to be… we were all busting up laughing to his silly quip; the one we’d all fell for and heard Carl repeat dozens and dozens of times. Still, somehow this time, with the joke on Carl the really did seem funny!
Carl smirked before saying, “Ha, haw guys, real funny; never heard that one before.” We all just busted up laughing again seeing how not amused Carl was with our fun. “Cruel friends you are! Just cruel, cruel friends.” Carl feigned disgust.
After a few moments as everyone gathered themselves, TS commented on the steady flow of air which streamed through the crawl. “Hey guys, there’s a solid airflow coming through the crawl. Wherever it goes, no pun intended, this crawl likely leads to another sizable section of cave. Should be some additional passage, guys, let’s go check it out!”
We all agreed and then insisted Carl lead the way.
“It’s fitting Bubba, go for it.” Mike pointed and said.
Brian joined the conversation, “We should name this new crawl, “Carl’s Blunder”.
Everyone quickly agreed; except Carl of course, and to his everlasting chagrin, “Carl’s Blunder” was born!
Within minutes, we were 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 through the crawl and make the sharp turn at the far end curving around a significant stalagmite.
Even as a small crawl it sported a few beautiful aragonite clusters, a tiny bacon-strip and a few crystalline rosebuds which were tucked neatly back into a tiny alcove. Each of us carefully made our way so as to not damage additional rock-formations or petite aragonite clusters or delicate soda-straws.
As TS exited the far side of the crawl he realized none of the group had left markers for the new passage. If someone had to come looking for them, there wouldn’t be a marker to indicate a new crawl or where their group had disappeared.
TS spoke up, “Hey guys, did anyone think to leave a marker by the entrance of this new crawl?”
Each looked at the others in turn followed by the same silent answer of, no; and yet, everyone just shook their heads and decided to let it go.
TS simply shrugged his shoulders and headed deeper into the forever night.
Brian suggested going back and leaving a marker but he wasn’t really 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.
And it was amazing!
There were numerous new chambers and passages flowing throughout this new find. One of the passages provided a beautiful miniature amphitheater, one particularly receptive to our sing-song spelunking techniques. How beautiful were the descants which were crooned from chamber to chamber.
Nearly an hour had now passed since we’d traversed Carl’s Blunder. Like kids we were crawling and climbing and hiking through unfamiliar passages, shimmying up a few ascents or chimneying down a descent or two; at length, we all entered a large breakdown room and gawked at an enormous climb.
It was too late to go back, we were hooked. We were all enamored with this new section of cave; it was just 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 virgin soil; we were wholly and completely ensnared.
The Breakdown Room as it came to be known, a room filled with large to giant boulders and shale and rock and sand; a climb made from what was once the dark recesses of the cave’s upper reaches. Each of us now stood gazing up at a nearly vertical 100 to 130 foot climb and that consisting utterly of breakdown. Some of the boulders were as large as an SUV and many of those behemoths sat atop other sizable boulders each sitting precariously atop yet another precariously placed Goliath. And still we decided to climb.
Mike, of course, being a climber, took the lead and seemed to just bound up the breakdown mountain. TS fell ponderously in behind Mike and Brian followed TS. Carl remained at the bottom watching and waiting until everyone else reached the summit. The trio set to the task of ascending this treacherous hill and continued doing so until everyone heard THE sound; that unforgettable grinding of stone upon stone where sand provides the lubricant and gravity the impetus.
Everyone suddenly froze and listened.
Mike was merely a meter from the top so he quickly finished the ascent.
“No harm, no foul” Carl thought.
Unfortunately, the sound came from the boulder upon which TS was standing.
TS had only climbed about half way up the breakdown mountain and Brian was tragically positioned immediately beneath TS’ position.
The boulder upon which Brian stood was positioned some 40 feet up from the breakdown below and there was no place for Brian to go. Brian couldn’t go to the left or to the right because there was nowhere to go, he was boxed in. Alternately, Brian couldn’t go straight up or straight down for straight up was a giant boulder sliding quickly towards Brian’s position and below was nothing but a forty foot drop into jagged boulders of breakdown.
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 sliding boulder. No change! The boulder continued to slide towards Brian.
“I’m so sorry, Brian,” TS hollered.
Brian reacted with a little vitriol, “I’m not real happy with you either, TS.”
“Who could have known?” TS thought. The boulder where TS stood just moments before, the one Mike used to ascend, was now sliding more quickly towards the edge and Brian below. The grinding sands seemed so intense as the boulder edged towards Brian. TS slid down and tried to stop the huge stone by wedging smaller rocks between the stones. It didn’t work.
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 edge and towards him.
We watched in horror as Brian searched for somewhere, anywhere to jump. There just wasn’t any 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 Brian, the boulder suddenly stopped, wedging itself between two massive boulders.
Only the tips of the huge boulder caught on facing rocks. The car sized boulder stopped just moments, millimeters from crushing Brian to death.
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.
Believe it or not, the boulder incident was still not enough to slow our explorations.
Once we had all summited the Breakdown Room we sat together for a short break, turned off our headlamps and began discussing our lives and various adventures.
After an extended silence in the dark Brian piped up, “Hey TS, Carl said you just launched your new book. Too cool, man! What’s it called?”
“Carl’s right, I just sent off the final transcript two days ago, April 4th 2016.”
“Wow Bubba, you’re a published author now, too cool!” Mike said.
Brian cut in again, “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.” Mike said, “It’s really good, but you better bring to ‘A’ game to read it. I’ve got a PhD in Theology and I still had to check all the Scripture references.”
Carl cuts in again, “You should read the Kirkus Indi Book Review. They don’t cut his book any slack but they also praise it as real and interesting literature. I remember the last line of the book review. It goes something like this: ‘ But the research and cleareyed exegesis in these pages should fascinate all students of end times lore.’”
Brian adds, “Sounds like pretty high praise.”
“I like it,” TS said.
“Let’s get going guys,” Brian groaned.
(Watch for the continuing Saga!)