Does he enter the cave?


    Nudge picked up the pack, took out his flashlight, grabbed the nylon rope. God knows what he'd do with the rope, but it seemed the spelunker thing to do.

    I'm no cave explorer. He stuck the rope under one arm, to wipe a sweaty palm on his jeans. Let's see—sturdy boots, light, compass, candle, matches… He'd never even been inside a cave before, only drafty halls in old libraries he liked to refer to as "caverns". But he'd read everything he could find. Would that make him ready?

    He swallowed hard, and took the first step. That was the hardest, they always said. First steps were easier, though, if you had someone to back you up.

    When evil haunts a man's soul, he needs to walk alone.

    Waxing poetic—was the air bad? The first flickers of panic shivered his resolution before common sense reasserted itself.

    You aren't far enough inside for bad air, ya dick!

    Unless you brought it with you.

    Smirking now, Nudge shone the light at sparkles in the wall. No, it wasn't going to be that easy. These were crystals, hints at further glory inside, but none of it belonged to trespassers or their precious metals. The beam hit a stalactite's glimmer and he froze.

    My first!

    Nonchalance didn't cut it. It was here, it was real, and it looked a hell of a lot more enticing than the yellow-brown image in the book, dammit! The next instant he was there, running his fingers over the smoothness cut by crusty granules, all a-sparkle. Gooseflesh danced down his arms. I'm really here.

    He was inside, he was going for it, he was an observer no more. Not on the sidelines, but in the thick of it. The student who had never really made good was about to make great.

    He strolled now, grinning, cautiously avoiding a trip over protruding stalagmites. He didn't know when it suddenly occurred to him that caves weren't as quiet as he'd thought. Hell, he was barely in the tunnel when it happened.

    The first warning was a rustly clutter, followed by a clatter of distant rockfall. It came at him through the passage, pushing fetid air ahead of it, rushing at him with the speed of an express.

The End

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