Entrance, a #writephoto prompt, succeeded the first one I did last year. Hopefully, I can fill in last year’s gaps with stories this year, until Sue Vincent returns to full strength. I write that in hope, but Sue’s post last week indicated her prognosis is not good. We all send you our support and hugs, Sue.
The picture for this week’s story is this one (you can check it on the original post).
It reminds me very much of one I found myself for an Erebor story, now earmarked for one of my Flash Fiction collections, which I’m working on at present. So I’ll try to do something different. Hmm. How about an inspiration from another old friend? This one is inspired by These Damned Insects, which is no longer on the blog, but appears in one of my collections, currently due out in late Feb/March. It is under 1000 words.
Serena Patricia Carruthers stood in front of the cave entrance and looked at the crumbling yellowed paper in her hand. Maybe putting it in her pants pocket hadn’t been the wisest move, but she hadn’t appreciated just how far up this fell she would need to climb. From the road it had looked like beautiful meadows of easy grass right up to where the crags started.
In a way, it was the same with every trip she’d taken to follow in her illustrious (some said) great-grandfather’s footsteps. She refused to listen to those who called him other names, like ‘old hack,’ or ‘charlatan,’ or even ‘dinosaur.’ He had been one of the most dedicated, courageous explorers of the 20s and 30s. His record spoke for itself.
And with all of the modern gadgets to help her, she was going to prove it.
Mind you, this cave in the English hills was the first entrance she’d actually found. So far, getting to all the locations proved more of a challenge than it seemed at first sight. But she’d only tried three others.
An insect buzzed past her ear, and she waved it away. Another, a bigger one, flitted about the boggy ground she’d skirted round to reach the limestone slab. It settled on one of the reedy grass tussocks an arm’s length away. Pretty. Black with golden rings around its long thin body. If she ever gave up treasure-hunting, or maybe it should be treasure trail-hunting, since she wasn’t really interested in the treasure, maybe she’d become a bug-hunter.
Was she not interested in the treasure? A small voice inside her called her on it. Well, it wasn’t the prime purpose of her travels. She wanted to see the places her grandfather’s notebooks described. Retrace his adventures. Prove that he wasn’t a liar. He was a famous and well-respected adventurer. If she found treasure as well, she deserved it. It would contribute to her expenses.
She studied the paper again. Yes, the faded sketch matched this vent in the hillside. There was a mention of insects. She swatted another buzzing thing from her hair—they were certainly insistent, whatever they were. The black needle-shaped one raised itself up and darted about again. It swung across the entrance and back again, daring her to come forward after it. So she did.
Just outside the step into the cave, the black and yellow one went frantic, dashing in front of her, and stooping at her head. She waved it away, and pushed the paper back in her pocket to bring the other hand into play: the buzzing ones were seriously attacking her ears now.
“Gerrof, all of you!”
She stepped forward.
Maybe the shouting at them worked, or maybe it was the step into the cave, away from the chilly warmth of the spring day in the high hills. All the insects left her. What a relief!
Once she stepped down from the edge, leaving the tumbled rocks and remains of turf and soil behind her, she was on a flat limestone ledge, crisscrossed with tiny channels. She got out her torch, selected high beam, and pierced the dark in front of her.
Grey walls towered to a point far above her, and the ledge she was on led straight into the depths of the hillside. It seemed level and innocuous. A voice inside reminded her of booby traps left by the ancients, but she shook it out of her head. That was for the ones abroad. English mythology didn’t have any of those. Just runes and magic.
She followed the ledge forward.
It got warmer.
She had the impression she was going downhill, but it could just be the sense of additional hill above her pressing her down. She whipped out her Ecobit and checked. Yes, altitude the same as when she’d stood in front of the cave.
Hang on. Had she checked it in front of the cave? Of course. Standard procedure. She always checked when she arrived at landmarks. How else to confirm it was the same as the Great Carruthers had listed?
This did not convince her. Doubt seeped through her nerves, and after a few more minutes of walking downhill, she stopped and checked again. The reading was the same. She flipped back to the history of today’s trip, and studied it. Everything was consistent with going up a hill, with a few diversions, and then entering and staying level.
She scrabbled in her pocket for something round, anything would do. Then she checked her pack. Polo mints. The chance of rolling one on its side on anything less than a smooth track were minimal, but even so… the mint rolled happily along the track, wobbling slightly at the natural unevenness. It kept going. And going. She was on a definite slope. Why didnt her Ecobit register that?
The time gauge was running on, so it was working.
Serena thought of the stories: he always did weird things; nobody knew how he got out of these impossible situations; his companions could never explain what they’d seen.
Companions. What if she saw something weird? She had no witness. Oh, she would record it. Then she had proof. She grabbed the webcam out of her pack and fixed it to her shoulder.
All the same…. maybe she should have a companion.
She stood, hesitating, wondering if she was being sensible to continue. Stories were one thing, but reality…
Should she turn back?
© J M Pett 2021