Summer for me and my friend, Jake, usually only meant one thing: Endless hiking trips in the mountainous terrain around our city. While traveling far away was a luxury we couldn’t afford, we’d frequently spent the weekend camping out. There were plenty of new places to discover in our vicinity; new lakes, forests, and even caves.
Jake and I had randomly met during one of our many solo hikes. I found him sitting by the lake with a cup of lukewarm coffee. He offered me some, and we got to talking.
That was the start of our decade long friendship.
This summer, due to the quarantine and all, nothing sounded better than some extreme social distancing. We both had a week off work, and decided to travel along one of our favorite treks through the mountains.
We equipped ourselves with ample amounts of supplies, an emergency phone, and suitable clothes. Then, we set out on our new adventure.
The trip brought us through an amazingly green valley. After a rainy spring, both plant and animal life thrived around us. We traversed the endless fields near an abandoned farm, only contrasted by the forest and mountains in the distance.
Personally, the mountain itself was my favorite part of the journey. I enjoyed the effort required to walk up, feeling as if my body actually needed to work.
Once we reached the first plateau, we got a brilliant view of the valley beneath. The sun was just about to set, and we decided to make camp for the night.
We made a simple bonfire, and sat down with a few cups of whiskey, while we told our usual round of ghost stories. Since alcohol runs straight to my bladder, it wasn’t long before I needed to take a leak. I wandered a short distance away from the camp, and let loose.
There, in the cliff wall, I noticed a cave entrance. It wasn’t particularly big, but large enough for any adult to crouch down and get inside. We’d taken that very same path twice before, but neither of us had ever seen it.
I excitedly ran back to tell Jake about my discovery. Even in our inebriated state, we knew better than to go exploring a cave at night after drinking. But, once morning came around, we would be ready.
We awoke early to the sun rising above the horizon. Even though we’d each had a few glasses of whiskey, we’d managed to elude the curse of a hangover.
With little hesitation, we packed the necessary equipment for spelunking. We didn’t have much rope to speak of, so climbing down or up rocky walls was out of the question. But, as long as the cave could be traversed solely on foot, we’d be fine.
Jake went first, holding onto the stronger flashlight, while I followed behind to mark our path at each intersection. Once we’d gotten past the first, narrow section, we reached a chamber where we could fully stand up. It was a massive boneyard, full of partially eroded limestone. I took a closer look, and found pale insects crawling around inside the tiny maze.
“Hey, Jake, check these out!” I yelled, my voice echoing through the cave.
“What the hell?”
We’d explored many caves together, but had never seen anything like it.
“Better leave them alone, don’t know if they’re poisonous or whatever.”
Already in the first chamber, we’d made an interesting discovery. The cave was looking good.
We made our way through the boneyard, only to be met by a narrow network of caves we had to crawl through.
“I’ll check if I can get through to the other side,” Jake said.
A few of them were just dead ends, while others were simply too narrow. After trying about four of the passages, we finally found one that led to another chamber. I marked our path, and we crawled further in.
The room we entered was the biggest I’d ever seen. It came with a massive hole that stretched twenty feet down into a shallow, underground river. We only had a narrow path to follow to the other side.
“Watch your step, let’s try not to slide off the cliff,” I said.
Of course, with that warning, Jake pretending to lose his grip. I instinctively reached out to grab him, only to be met with laughter.
“Real funny, keep going.”
We spent a couple of hours getting familiarized with the caves, making sure we could find our way back out. I’d marked it pretty accurately, and we theoretically had enough batteries to keep the flashlights going for three days straight. Still, we had a hike to continue, and when we realized the cave just kept going deeper into the mountain, we had to turn around.
Just then, something echoed through the cave. It sounded like a wet growl coming from further ahead. Shivers were sent down my spine, and suddenly I realized just how cold it had gotten.
“Yeah, we’re definitely turning around,” Jake said. He was joking, but through his smile, I could tell he was nervous.
Then we heard a similar sound, coming from behind us.
“Alright, what the hell is that sound?” Jake asked.
“I don’t know, but let’s just get out of here.”
We followed the path back quickly, knowing exactly where to go. Even then, the narrow tunnels we had to crawl through, drastically slowed us down. In the distance, we heard the broken growls and roars growing closer.
“Hurry up!” I told Jake as panic started to set in.
“Wait, there’s something on the other – “ he managed to say, before he suddenly started screaming.
I followed him as quickly as I could. We’d made it back to the room with the large hole, but Jake was nowhere in sight.
No response. I laid down, and peeked over the cliff edge. Jake wasn’t there, but I got glimpse of one of the creatures that had growled. It was a pale, hairless thing that looked like a large, slender dog. It had no eyes, but its mouth extended abnormally far back towards its throat. Its whole face was rather thin, perfectly fitted to dig small creatures out of the cave walls.
I called out for my friend once again, but he was simply gone. If the creatures had pulled him down, there was a good chance he’d died in the fall. Unfortunately, that theory was quickly put to rest as I heard him screaming from the head of the river. He’d been taken down, but that hadn’t killed him. I saw streaks of blood mixed in the clear waters. I pulled out the little bit of rope we had, but there was no way I could get down to help him.
Then, more of the dog-like creatures approached. I couldn’t stay behind any longer. Instead, I decided to flee the cave, grab the phone and call for help. It took me twenty minutes just to get out, but luckily none of the creatures took chase. Once out, I called for rescue, which would arrive by helicopter.
The thirty minutes it took for them to arrive, were the longest in my entire life. I wanted to go back and help Jake, but I knew they needed me there to guide them.
As soon as they arrived, I brought them into the first chamber. To all of our surprises, the cave just ended there. The narrow tunnel we’d crawled through earlier, had simply vanished. There were a few drops of blood from where I’d crawled through, but that was about it.
Of course, I showed them proof that Jake had been with me, but that didn’t exactly help us find him.
It has been a month since he vanished. I’ve since tried to find the cave again, but even the main entrance has been erased from existence. Whatever happened inside that cave, will remain a mystery till the end of time.
WRITTEN BY: Richard Saxon
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