Caverns of Blood
by P.S.Gifford
forum: Caverns of Blood
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Caverns of Blood


            Cool, humid silence enveloped me. Unseen immensity weighed down by the tons of earth above. Voices echoed distantly and lights twinkled out of the gloom. Somewhere I heard the resounding drip, drip, drip of water. Deep within the bowels of the earth, the Carlsbad Caverns of New Mexico unlock their majesty and beauty in awesome display. Truly one of the wonders of the World, their passages and story bear witness to the brevity of man's existence and the never-ending magnificence of nature's artistry.

            My journey began at the Visitors Center where a $6 pass was a low-priced admission for what lay ahead. I held my breath in anticipation as the natural entrance beckoned me hauntingly from the amphitheatre above, developed specifically for visitors to watch the phenomena of a million Mexican free tail bats emerging at the rate of 5000 per minute, on their nightly scavenging for food. I watched on as they danced and beckoned below the ominous yawning cave entrance. Their evening display washed over me in a spiraling mass of fluttering wings and captivating aroma.

            Darkness consumed daylight as I then stared down the steep, switchback entrance trail. A mile long winding descent into the heart of the earth, had called eerily. My eyes adjusted quickly however to the dimming light and I began to drink in images that sprung into view as I awkwardly wound around corners and through tunnels.

            A twist here and I came upon the Whale's Mouth, a deep-throated hollow whose opening yawned threateningly. A turn there and I discovered a shallow pool, rippling to the slow drip of water off a knife edged stalactite. The dark, cool humidity sealed in year round, proved comfortable as my knees strained with the steep drop. Past the "bone yard", whose hollowed walls prompted the apt name, I finally reached the big room; and the cavern more than justified its name. The artistry of the underworld seemed almost alive here with winding paths swinging snakelike through a sculptured forest. A distant tunnel ended with the glowing stance of a meditating Buddha, smiling upon his accumulation of frozen stalagmites. An alcove, capturing a limestone flow, draped like ice cream around a still pool. Here I discovered a pit, which appeared seemingly bottomless, dropping away in endless darkness.

            I had finally made it, the realization of my quest. The splendor of these caverns held a dark and morbid secret. I had first stumbled upon quite by chance, whilst studying an ancient bound book that the University keeps. The book told of Satanists who had fled their native lands in search of freedom in the new land. They brought with them vast fortunes. As I sat there gleefully absorbed in its macabre, I had allowed the ancient manuscript to slip clumsily through my fingers. As the book plunged to the floor of the library, excitement prevailed over my panic at damaging it, as a bundle of well-worn papers had fallen from behind the binding. I scrambled to retrieve it and furtively positioned the papers into my inside jacket pocket. I was vigilant as to make sure that nobody was monitoring me. I had then raced home excitedly, strangely convinced that those papers were going to change my life forever, that I had somehow accidentally stumbled upon a magnificent lost secret. Once home I eagerly perused over the faded manuscripts. They were hand written, and I had trouble deciphering certain words, other still were completely unknown to me. It was a ledger of some kind. There was a long list of names, and they all had paid the then ungodly sum of five pounds in gold coins to a certain Jeremiah Franklin. As I looked at the dozens of gentlemen listed, all with the grandest of names who had parted with such a princely sum, I became more and more curious as to their motivation. Then, at three in the morning my tired eyes finally came across the answer. It was an account so vivid that it sent shivers down my spine even within the warmth and security of my apartment revealing the grisly and implausible reality. The fine gentlemen were buying participation in a ritual with whom they believed to be the very devil himself, Jeremiah. In addition, and here was the most gruesome part; along with the gentlemen's name was the name of the young female intended for the sacrifice. A further document, which looked liked an unsent letter explained further that there had been some sort of an incident. That one of the gentlemen changed his mind at the point of the blood letting. It wrote in such a gruesome fashion that I could hardly repeat it and explained in surprising detail that the gold coins were stored in a grand chest. Therein also was a letter that had been apparently swiftly composed to a certain Rosalyn Franklin, back in England, and had been signed but unsent by none other than Jeremiah himself…

            I was amazed, yet there was one more even more startling revelation in store for me, on the back of the letter I discovered a map…


            Now two months later, those papers had morphed into my obsession. Leaving the safety of the lights and secured pathways behind me, I had fumbled the old faded map nervously between my perspiring fingers...Yes, yes; I delighted realized that I had actually stumbled upon it -a secret path, long since forgotten.

            As I left the rest of the tourists I had climbed beyond the roped off sections, and began my perilous descent. I slowly and carefully made my way, and I caught my leg abruptly on a sharpened edge of rock. Perhaps intended as a warning not to proceed, yet, I had traveled too far to turn back now…If only I had paid that cautioning sign heed. My journey continued as the blood slowly dripped from my aching leg. I must have trekked for nearly an hour deeper then deeper still into the bowels of the caves.

            The map indicated a secret chamber, hidden behind a rock formation reminiscent of an Owl. The faded map made this point clear. Then I had discovered that I was staring at what resembled an owl face naturally formed in the ancient rock. The more I studied the features, the more convinced I became that my long undertaking was soon to be over. I climbed myself up precariously onto the ledge .I spied a crevice at the center of the "owl's" right eye and with a delicious combination of both fear and excitement, I slowly reached in. I felt something furry scurry over my hand. Then I laughed nervously, realizing it was only a rat.

            "Do not be afraid." I chanted repeatedly in my head. "Do not be afraid!"

            I tried desperately to maintain my calmness. But as I fumbled in the shadows, I audibly gasped as my hand arrived upon a lever. It took all of my strength that I could muster, but after a few minutes, it slowly surrendered its resistance and moved. To my then amazement and delight, a passage miraculously opened. As the rock entry slowly became exposed, it revealed its contents to human eyes, perhaps for the first time in centuries. I shone my flashlight inside and almost wrenched at the sight that befell my eyes. Skeletons- dozens upon dozens of skeletons-The stench was almost overpowering. I forced back my deepest desire to vomit. I needed to control myself .I knew that I was so close…

            "Do not be afraid."

            I thought back about the letters I had discovered and felt a moment of smugness. Despite my fascination with the dark arts, I have always been a confirmed skeptic; never quite completely believing a single word of the mumbo jumbo that I nevertheless became so very intrigued with. Yet, when I came across references of this dark altar, my attention was truly grabbed. Not for the altar itself, this at best held a mere morbid curiosity to me, but for that grand chest overflowing with gold. Yes, I confess, old-fashioned greed impelled me to begin upon this trek, as I imagined that the coins could possibly still be there…

            It was then I spied it, sitting in a small crevice within the wall, and instantaneously the present time was propelled back. I could feel my heart pounding excitedly deep within me. A silver chest was positioned adjacent to a large flat piece of rock, an altar. I physically shook as I comprehended the agonies that innocent beings had endured. How there desperate screams would have echoed with no avail, deep here within the earth.

            I approached the item of my desire slowly as I wanted to savor the moment. I allowed my fingers to caress gently every eloquently carved feature, relishing in its exquisite beauty. Despite the temperature hovering just above freezing, I felt the perspiration forming upon my brow. Finally, I could resist temptation no more and I pried it open.

            The lid moved with surprising ease and its contents were beyond my wildest of dreams. The case was full of gold coins, the largest coins I have ever seen in my life. I was rich, wealthy beyond my boldest of imaginings I started to laugh hysterically and uncontrollably.

            It was then I realized that the door through which I entered the chamber was beginning to close; grabbing several of the coins, I raced towards the diminishing opening. I was going to make it; thank god, I was going to make it!

            I am not sure what happened next, I could have sworn I felt hands, human hands, upon my ankles. Yet I could see no-one. I remember crashing towards the rock ground. I remember my head hitting a jagged rock. I remember the blood. I remember screaming…

            That was a week ago. I spent three days entirely endeavoring to unearth a means to open the passage. I have pushed and tugged every conceivable rock inside the chamber. Nothing works. I quickly gave up on screaming for help, as I knew all to well that the natural design of the cavity prevented even my loudest of cries from reaching the outside world.

            Therefore, as I sit here writing my account for whoever finds me, I understand fully that I am undoubtedly doomed. I have found a small source of water. I have nothing to eat; I have desperately attempted to catch myself a rat, my only companions. Nevertheless, they are surprisingly nimble. I see them eying me hungrily. They know that in a few days, I will surely be dead, or not strong enough to fight them off, and they will be able to feast.

            I am afraid…


The end.



copyright 2005 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is an Englishman who now resides in Southern California. He has been writing stories since age eleven.

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